Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I want to thank my readers, critics, and the occasional stalker for a great year. 2008 was my fourth full year of blogging. I've made 2,988 posts (this is 2,989). I've had thousands of comments, a few were from nutballs, but most were from my fellow rational atheists. It's been a good year. I've enjoyed myself. So thanks to everyone who has participated in the conversation here at Deep Thoughts. Hopefully, 2009 will be just as good.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective

Teen you take an abstinence pledge are just as likely to have have sex and more likely to have unprotected sex. It’s that whole only tell them the “right” story thing that happens when you approach this problem from a religious perspective.

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

Source: Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective

I don’t know why religious people think that teaching abstinence only is sensible. Teen have a biological imperative pushing them to have sex, lots and lots of sex. The only sensible approach is to teach them everything. Abstinence is great (if that’s what your religion dictates), and talk about safe sex. The kids have the knowledge they need to make good decisions. Teens will still make bad decisions, but perhaps they will make fewer bad decisions.

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Youth pastor indicted on child-porn charges

Another youth pastor has been indicted on child pornography charges. This time he was a missionary too.

A child-pornography investigation in central Florida has led to the indictment of a former missionary who authorities say had more than 6,000 pictures and 250 video clips on his computer of children engaged in sex.

Investigators say that the eight-month investigation resulted in the arrest last week of 36-year-old Joel Price of Deltona. Price has resigned his job with the Sanford-based New Tribes Mission.

He worked as a missionary in Venezuela. And…  they are not happy.

A representative with New Tribes Mission said Price worked in a missionary maintenance role with tribes in Venezuela, not as a youth minister. But WESH 2 reporters found a picture of Price going over a bible verse with a boy.

Investigators said they don't believe he carried out any sex acts with children, but said the Internet images are very real of girls younger than 12. "They were victimized when these images were shot and victimized over and over again when they're passed," Davidson said.

I need a picture of Joel Price. If convicted, he’s joining my hall of shame.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Alamo cultist gets special treatment

Felons are not allowed to hang out together. Tony Alamo is a convicted felon. Leslie Ray "Buster" White pleaded guilty to trafficking in counterfeit music CDs. He was granted a special request as part of a plea agreement. He will be allowed to attend church services with Tony Alamo.

…U.S. District Judge David Folsom said.

The agreement asks for an exception to the rule and allow White to "attend organized religious church services of Tony Alamo."

The eight-page plea agreement, signed by White's attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Jackson, also allowed White to "consult with his minister Tony Alamo." The agreement was signed before Alamo's arrest on federal sex charges.

Talk about a deal with the devil. What are these guys thinking?

Hat Tip Fetid Fruit

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

His blood pressure medications made him do it

Baptist pastor Ken Huneycutt is looking for any excuse to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison for molesting young boys. Now he’s blaming his blood pressure medicine.

Is it too much to expect that he would own his crime? It is the right thing to do. But what do these guys really know about the right thing? It not like they get their instructions from a book.

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Let al-Zeidi go free

Shoes I've been on the sideline for the al-Zeidi/George W. Bush shoe throwing incident. I keep thinking that Bush would issue a statement saying that he understood that what al-Zeidi did was a form of protest. And that, in the spirit of our core American value of free speech, Bush would like to see al-Zeidi freed. After all, he's already had crap beaten out of him while in custody awaiting his trial.

Consumers for Peace issued a press release calling for a protest in Washington to ask the Iraqi Government to free Al-Zeidi.

The treatment Al-Zeidi has received should shame all Americans and is likely to motivate as much anti-American sentiment as have the photos of torture at Abu Ghraib," said David Swanson, co-founder of "While our President and Vice President openly confess to authorizing torture, their puppet government in Iraq tortures a man for throwing shoes, in complete absence of even the pretense of 'interrogation,' much less a ticking time bomb. Freeing Al-Zeidi will not fix this situation. We must also put Bush and Cheney behind bars.

Good luck with the whole putting Bush and Cheney behind bars thing. Nobody in power has the stomach for the kind of self-destructive political process required to hold these men accountable. We will have to settle for making fun of them instead.

I think the Iraqi government should free al-Zeidi. It is the right thing to do. I would like to hear what you think.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Crimes against nature?

I read this story and was struck by the phrase "Crimes Against Nature". It took me a little while to realize that the term is used to describe gay sex. It seems wrong to describe gay sex as a crime against nature. I sure it has its roots in religion. North Carolina may not be gay friendly.

As usual with my posts, this story centers on the a pastor who has lost his way. Pastor Thompson Gregory Little was arrested for soliciting for sex acts in a public park. The act is known as cruising for sex. Little is not the first pastor to trip over this hazard. He will not be the last.

"It's going to be a contested case," said J.D. Byers, Little's attorney. "I don't think what is alleged to have happened happened."

Little professes his innocence. We will put up a fight. He’s a pastor in the south. There is not much hope, if convicted he will not be able to keep his job. His church, Cornerstone Christian Church, does not appear to be gay friendly, so very few are.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Neighbors Shocked As Pastor Accused Of Molesting Boys

It always comes as a surprise. The kind old pastor's face appears on the evening news with the headline, "Pastor sexually abuses children."

Police said Kenneth Wayne Huneycutt, 60, pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church in Ada, touched two boys while they were in his care and that he has been charged in Pontotoc County with four counts of lewd molestation of a child under 12.

Source: Neighbors Shocked As Pastor Accused Of Molesting Boys

I’m no longer shocked by anything these men do. I am frustrated. Especially, when it comes to the Baptist church. They do little to confront the issue. They do not police their own. They leave the children open to men who prey on the weak and seem oblivious to the danger. Wake up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Youth minister indicted on child porn

JeffreyWasley Jeffrey Alan Wasley is a peach. He is a youth pastor and magician who allegedly collects child porn and likes to record little boys as they pee in public restrooms. Did I mention he's a youth pastor?

“This defendant’s actions are especially disturbing because he was allegedly surreptitiously filming young boys in public rest rooms,” U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said in a statement. “In addition, he had allegedly collected a large amount of child pornography, actions which support a market designed solely to sexually exploit children for others’ sick enjoyment.

Source: Kennesaw youth minister indicted on child porn

“Magic Jeff” served as youth minister for Calvary Jesus Church in Kennesaw. He also worked as a magician at amusement park, hospitals, and schools. This guy exhibits the pattern I call the Michael Jackson syndrome. He loves kids. He will do anything to be near them. People like this should set off alarm bells, but they don’t. They get away with it until they screw up.

The ironic thing is that Wasley’s church runs a prison ministry. I wonder if they will accept him back into the flock once he begins serving his potential 70 year sentence? My guess is yes.

One of the problems I have with the whole clergy sexual abuse thing is how the pastor’s church handles the situation. It is rare to find a church website with anything about an offending pastor. The most common approach is to simply edit out all record that the pastor ever even worked at the church. That is the approach Calvary Jesus Church took. You won’t find word one on the website. Every page that relates to youth ministry is broken too. And, there are no press releases, notes to he congregation, or notes to the public (or press). Instead, the waters are calm. The church moves on. I don’t think this is the right approach. It perpetuates the problem.

The crimes a pastor commits, be they public or private, should be visible to the public. The church should comment on what happened. They should comment on the steps they will take to prevent a man like Wasley from gaining access to children. The church should offer an outlet for people who need counseling. I can go on and on. But seriously, how does ignoring the situation help solve the problem?

Hat tip Volly

Build with Jesus

Would you be offended if your child opened a kids meal at Long John Silver’s and found a religious themed gift inside? I would be, snd so was a Muslim family at the Mall of America. They were recently offered a Christian themed notebook with the title Build with Jesus (pdf). When they asked for a non-religious toy, they found there was no alternative. It was Christian evangelism, or nothing.

The official response would not have satisfied me. The store simple offered to have alternative toys available. I would have pushed for providing non-religious toys.

In a letter to CAIR-MN, the Long John Silver's franchisee owner Steve Oborn wrote: "In an attempt to support and respect a multitude of diverse needs and preferences, it is our policy to have an optional toy(s) available per request.

I’d like to see the Building with Mohammad version. I’ll hold my breath. The only religious message tolerated will be a Christian message. I’m sure the alternative toy will be a piece of paper and a lump of coal.

I found some hate filled responses to this situation on a Christian blog. The comments are just crazy.

Offending is good! I say our government should subsidize Klezmer Artists. And Carolers! And People pushing Baroque Christian music! And Traditional Judeo/Christian music in all it's forms! Screw them!!!


Nora, I agree with you. I think Christmas is a beautiful holiday.

I'm offended that Muslims were offended by a notepad. Notice the pattern here? Danish cartoons, teddy bear names, and children's meal toys. Only stupid people are offended by such stupid things.

I don’t get Christian hate.

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Atheist Revolution: Ask Obama To Uninvite Bigot Rick Warren

Vjack has a post up calling for Obama to univite Rick Warren from the presidential inauguration. He links to a from you can use to voicing you opinion. Check it out.

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Fundie calls for Atheist holocaust

I normally get these nutball comments in emails. This one was less a personal attack and more a call for... well, he wants to kill all of us.

David posted:

I think it's time for another holocaust. This time, instead of Jews, how about atheists. We urgently need to round up all atheists in the world and lead them to the chambers. Our world would be such a better place.

This comment is number 17 on a post titled, Dad links son’s suicide to “The God Delusion”.

I meet all kinds of Christians. Some good, some bad. Only a very few sink to this level of depravity. Is this really what Christianity is all about? Go ahead, tell me David is not a real Christian.

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Fox News picks up Rick Warren sermon

Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.One of the benefits of increased exposure is more opportunity to spread your message. President-Elect Obama chose Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Presidential Inauguration, so FOX News chose Rick Warren to broadcast four special airings of His Saddleback Church’s Christmas service, When God Changes Your Plans.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, it’s not news. But then again, few people accuse FOX News of broadcasting news these days. Second, it feels like Obama choice of Rick Warren is being exploited to deliver Warren’s anti-gay message to a wider audience. It feels so opportunistic, and wrong.

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SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 15:  A woman wears a pro s...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The theocrats at plan to fight back against Attorney General Jerry Brown's challenge of the legality of Proposition 8. In a press release today, Ron Prentice announced his organizations intention to file a supplemental briefing. I am sure they are putting their best biblical scholars on it. Let’s see… gay marriage is bad because the bible says so. No, no, wait… gay marriage is bad because God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. I’m sure they will come up with something.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pope blesses iPhone prayer book

What the...

SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 09:  A reporter hold...Although Apple's iPhone and iPod are primarily designed to deliver music, movies and other entertainment, they're also being used to bring religion to Web 2.0. A prime example: iBreviary, a Vatican-approved digital daily prayer book that can be downloaded via iTunes to the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Source: iPrayer: Pope blesses iPhone prayer book just in time for Christmas

You do the math on this one. That’s one billion Catholics times $1 per download. Um… I think that’s a lot of money.

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Pope Benedict spreads fear

Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, B...

Image via Wikipedia

In a speech recently, Pope Benedict said "...Homosexual relations are a destruction of God's work". It sounds a lot like the ranting of his first master, who once said. “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it” .

Words carry power in the mind of the faithful. When you tell true believers that gays are destroying Gods work, the true believers start destroying gays. “ Pope Benedict's words are irresponsible.

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Pastor Howard Porter convicted of murder

Pastor Howard “Doug” Porter was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But.... he was such a good man. A man of God. How can this be? Read about it at Estate of Denial.

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That pastor is a thief!

I play too much Team Fortress. When I read this story, I heard the voice of the Engineer saying, "That soldier is a spy!".

A Decatur pastor arrested on forgery charges in Smyrna on Friday

pleaded guilty in DeKalb County last month to unrelated theft charges under the first offender statute. Maurice Joseph Easley, 37, was given five years probation, ordered to pay $4,000 in restitution and complete 150 hours of community service for theft by taking when he was a property manager employed by NuRock Cos., according to court documents. The case was settled on Nov. 6.

Source: Arrested pastor guilty of prior theft

Pastor Easley ripped off a senior citizens apartment complex in his first conviction. The man is a stain.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Convicted pedophile James Bevel has died

James Bevel was a important civil rights leader and friend of MLK. He was also a convicted incestuous pedophile.

Bevel died Friday in Virginia after a fight with pancreatic cancer, said a daughter, Chevara Orrin, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was recently released on bond while appealing a 15-year prison sentence.

Bevel was a top lieutenant to Martin Luther King Jr. and architect of the 1963 Children's Crusade in Birmingham, Ala. But in April, a jury convicted Bevel of incest for having sex more than a decade ago with a then-teenage daughter.

Source: Rev. James Bevel, prominent MLK Jr. adviser, dies

For the record, Bevel was a Baptist.

Other posts on Bevel:

Pastor Found Guilty of robbing the Dollar General

I love this story. Pastor goes "nuts" and robs a store. The Judge does not buy the "nuts" or "brain injury" excuse. The pastor goes down for at least three years and maybe as long as life. Justice!

A Shenandoah County Circuit Court judge has found a former Luray pastor guilty of armed robbery at a Dollar Store.

Fifty-five-year-old Hobert Bryant pleaded no contest to charges of robbery and use of a firearm during the commission of a robbery through a plea agreement.

He faces a minimum of three years in prison for the firearm charge and a maximum sentence of life in prison for the robbery.

Bryant was a pastor at the Rocky Branch Baptist Church in Luray.

Source: Ex-Pastor Found Guilty of Robbery

I’ve posted on Pastor Bryant before. Read the comment thread. I was in rare form. Head injury my ass.

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Pastor sentenced to 5 years

In Idaho, pastor Steven Bicknell was sentenced to 3 to 5 years in prison for fondling a 9-year-old girl. The sentence was given after the judge rejected a plea bargain. The victims father said it best.

"We trusted the welfare of our daughter with him and felt beyond betrayed," the girl's mother said. "He took a part of her innocence and I realize no matter what happens here today that there's no way that's going to be restored to her."

Source: Former N. Idaho pastor sentenced to 5 years - Fort Mill, SC

Rick Warren pulls anti-gay language from his Web site

LAKE FOREST, CA - DECEMBER 1:  Sen. Barack Oba...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Via AmericaBlog: Rick Warren pulled an interesting soviet era trick by attempting to remake his  Saddleback church into a kinder gentler, gay tolerant church.  The webisite removed language which some might find embarrassing. Just a week ago, the church website said homosexuals could not become members, but they could attend. You know, so they could be cured and all…

I smell a rat.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Pale Blue Dot – a tribute to Carl Sagan

a pale blue dot

Toomanytribbles is a gifted photographer. In my humble opinion, the best on the atheist blogroll. Click through on her picture (the big beautiful blue dot above), it will take you to a few links in tribute to Carl Sagan. It has been 12 years since he passed. Tribbs likes to keep his memory alive.

The thing about photography that has always eluded me is the ability to see a picture in my head and make it happen in a photograph. This picture is an example of visualization and then creation. I am humbled and impressed.

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Poking a finger in a fundies eye

Attorney General Jerry Brown actions are commendable. By asking to invalidate Proposition 8 he is acting in the best interest of our citizens. He's also sticking a big dirty finger in the eye of our Mormon masters, and they don't like it.

It is disappointing that the Attorney General has refused to defend the vote of the people as the law instructs him to do. It will take some time to digest this new and unusual legal argument he has created. As the only remaining party defending Prop 8's validity in these lawsuits, it is more important than ever that we remain focused on our role of providing the Court with the law and argument that shows Prop's validity."

I’ve got news for you idiots at, you are the only one left in the fight from the fundie side because everyone else realized what a huge miscalculation it was to forces ones religious believes on others. Perhaps it is time you mind your own business.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bush's inane legacy

Today President Bush put the final stamp on his failed presidency by inflicting his misguided Christian moral agenda on our reproductive healthcare system. His conscience clause regulation is a draconian attempt at implementing his theocratic agenda. It will not stand. History will highlight this as the final incompetent act of desperately stupid presidency.

The Family Planning Council is justifiably concerned.

"The scope of these regulations are astonishing. Institutions and individuals in every community will be able to refuse to provide contraception because they mistakenly believe that certain methods of birth control cause abortion," Mann declared. "The Bush Administration has determined that the availability of family planning services could depend solely on the individual whims and ideology of any health care provider," Mann added.

Even the Catholic Church is mystified, calling Bush’s action an  anathema to the Catholic tradition.

While some have erroneously pointed to Catholic teaching to support the imposition of ever-more restrictive refusal clauses, the reality is that these clauses are anathema to the Catholic tradition. Catholic teaching requires due deference to the conscience of others in making decisions-meaning that health-care providers must not dismiss the conscience of the person seeking care

President-Elect Obama – please resend this order. It will help erase the fetid memory of our national disgrace, George W. Bush.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why religion sucks

The Cross

This story is unbelievable. Rebecca Hancock faces public humiliation for her sins. In the opinion of her church, she is living in sin. If she does not leave her boyfriend, then she faces having her sins broadcast to the rest of the congregation.

Now, she says, church elders have given her the worst ultimatum yet: In a Dec. 8 letter, they told her she either has to meet with them and end her "immoral" relationship or she will face public humiliation. “Bottom line, on January they 4th they are going to the church publicly with my sins, and my children will be sitting in church at the time,” Hancock told

Now, don’t get me wrong, but Rebecca Hancock is an idiot. Then again, so are the members of Grace Community Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Let me explain.

Her sin is living with a man and having sex without be married. OK – who cares? When they shame you in public, simply say, “Mind your own business”.

To the members of Grace Community Church, I don’t even know where to start. She left your church. She’s no longer a member. She does not want anything to do with your intrusive and backward shaming practices. Back off – it is no longer any of your business.

Oh, did I mention that Hancock is an idiot? She’s worried about the impact to her children. They are 20 and 18. My guess is that by now they know all about sex. What the hell are you worried about? Your actions are not a sin. Your action are considered normal social behavior. Your nutball church is acting like a friggen mind control cult. If you want that level of intrusiveness, join the LDS.

Geez – stupidity on this level blows my mind.

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Former LDS bishop sentenced for child sex abuse

A bad man is going to do some serious time in prison. 30 years in prison, a death sentence really, for molesting three young sisters.

Timothy O'Sean McCleve, 53, got the maximum sentence from 2nd District Judge Ernie Jones, who ordered two counts of second-degree felony sexual abuse of a child to run consecutively.

Defense attorney Randall Skeen asked for probation and a year in jail, citing McCleve's "extensive record of community service," as well a psycho-sexual evaluation indicating McCleve was "treatable and manageable within the community."

But the judge rejected that option because of the number of victims.

McCleve’s lawyer actually argued that McCleve should not spend time in prison. The bastard preyed on little girls. He should pay for his crime, and pay hard.

Pastor arrested in San Clemente

Happy Holidays everyone - please make sure to lock up your daughters this holiday season. Especially in and around San Clemente.

The suspect, 28-year-old Daniel Pedroza, is a junior high school ministry pastor at Capo Beach Calvary Church in Dana Point. He is a resident of the city. His arrest followed a child abuse report authorities received from social services. The report claimed a female minor—somewhere between 14 and 17—had become sexually involved with her youth pastor…

And be careful which church you attend.

It looks like we lost a round

The pro life group Americans United for Life is celebrating another victory in their fight to outlaw abortions. In a press release today, they applauded the Illinois Supreme Courts decision to allow pharmacists the right to challenge a rule preventing their ability to deny patients emergency contraception for religious, moral, or conscientious reasons.

The rule was originally forced upon the pharmacists and pharmacies by a 2005 emergency order of Governor Rod Blagojevich, who stated in no uncertain terms that pharmacists should either dispense the controversial drug or leave the profession. Two lower courts had previously ruled that the plaintiff-pharmacists and pharmacies did not have legal standing to challenge the rule.

This is dangerous ground. However, I think that the next step in the process is doomed to failure. There is no way a nutball fundie pro life pharmacist can be allowed to practice religion in place of dispensing medially prescribed treatments for what a reasonable person understands to be a harmless medical procedure. What next? A pharmacist withholding AIDS drugs over a belief that AIDS is God’s punishment for a sinful lifestyle, or refusing to dispense antibiotics to a young person with an STD because the act was immoral? We must push back. This is insane.

Congratulations to Penn State & Eric Plutzer

I was reading my January issue of Discovery Magazine when I noticed that Penn State's study on creationism in public high schools was number 36 on the list of the top 100 science stories of 2008.

The researchers, led by Penn State political scientist Eric Plutzer, questioned nearly 1,000 teachers about their personal beliefs and the amount of class time they devoted to evolution and creationism. The results? About one in six of the surveyed teachers espoused young-earth creationist views, and most of them taught their students those views. Only 23 percent strongly agreed that evolution was a central theme in their teaching.

Keep fighting the good fight!

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Obama makes a bad choice with Warren

I understand why Barack Obama choose Rick Warren to give the invocation at the presidential inauguration. Back during the early days of the election, Warren and Obama hooked when Obama was given an opportunity to speak directly to a large wealthy evangelical audience. Obama's paying his political tab.

But Warren is simply a housebroken version of Dobson. Bligbi says it best.

He’s Dobson with a softer voice. He’s anti-woman, he’s anti-gay and yes, he’s anti-atheist. The man’s probably never met a minority group he doesn’t think deserves to be dominated by white straight protestant men like himself.

Lease we forget. Rick Warren openly endorsed California’s Proposition 8. If you judge a man by what he does, Rick Warren has lost his credibility as a moderate voice in evangelical politics. Once you lose it… it does not come back.

It’s time to sober up. Obama is not likely to champion gay marriage. His words and actions show this clearly. I’m not sure that was ever in his plan.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The battle for gay marrage continues announced today plans to release TV ads with Gay and Lesbian Families promoting the repeal of Proposition 8.The ads are schedule to air during Inauguration week.

"It's important that our fellow Californians see the faces of the real families that are directly affected by the passage of Proposition 8," said John Ireland, the group's organizer.

One of the spots in the campaign will feature Sonia and Gina, a couple who are raising a son and daughter, ages 6 and 3. "Don't take my family's rights away. Get to know me first," Sonia says in the ad. "Our families may look different from yours, but we're not. We need the same things... like marriage... so we can protect and provide for our kids."
The ads should focus attention on the injustice of Prop 8. I hope they highlight purely religious nature of the people who oppose Gay marriage. Theocracy is insidious.

You can help by donating to purchase airtime.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Students to be taught there's no God

In some mythical land called Victoria…

VICTORIAN state primary school students will soon be able to take religious education classes which teach there is no evidence God exists. The Humanist Society of Victoria has developed a curriculum for primary pupils that the state government accreditation body says it intends to approve, The Sunday Age newspaper reported.

Read More: Students to be taught there's no God

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Secular effort to fight AIDS in Kenya?

Rotarians are secular. It is easy to forget that there are secular groups in America who are mainstream and not religious in any way. I applaud their effort to fight AIDS. We need to present a secular face to the world in this fight. My question is, “Are we presenting a secular face to the world?”

A press release today announced that a  Rotary Action Group Helps Launch Major Public-Private HIV Prevention Initiative in Kenya. On the surface I am happy.  It is deep down where I feel my discomfort. Something is not right here.

The Rotarians have partnered with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). And partnering with the Bush Administration comes with a few strings attached. Like limits on what services can be provided. Here is an example of the help Kenyan children between the ages of 10 and 24 years of age will receive.

For example, one partner, a division of Warner Bros. Entertainment, has worked with PEPFAR to create an interactive, multi-player computer game, "Pamoja Mtaani" ("Together in the Hood") to show teens how to identify and avoid risky behaviors. Another partner, the toy manufacturer Hasbro, will carry the message to the younger set with specially designed toys and games.

A video game that teaches what? Abstinence?

The game features five characters brought together through random circumstance, each having lost what is most precious to them; together, they must seek justice and recover what was taken, as well as help an injured woman and seek guidance on their quest from the mystical Mama Africa. "As they work their way through various neighborhoods, they uncover and experience barriers and facilitators to behavior change,"

I video game in economically challenged Kenya where 40% of the population is out of work and poverty is a fact of life. I don’t get how this makes sense. Also, the video game teaches a child how to behave – is anyone else bothered by the overt attempt at evangelism? It feels like the fudie effort to replace Evolution with Intelligent Design in public schools. You know, just don’t call it religion.

The program suggests that we can prevent AIDS by preventing children from having sex until they are married… Say what? If you don’t call it abstinence, then it is not a Christian effort to control behavior. Condoms work better than abstanace programs.  Where are the condoms? 

Oh, and call me a cynic, but this also smells like market development. No?

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Atheism 101: A Reading List revisited

In the beginning Vjack continues to refine his Atheism 101 post on developing an Atheist Reading list. I've send dozens of people to his post when they ask for help via email or in comments.

I wanted to add a book that was important to me when I first became an atheist. Asimov's In The Beginning, Science faces God in the Book of Genesis.  It is all but forgotten today. And by today’s standards the book  is fairly unsophisticated.  Back in the day it sparked my first stirrings of intellectual curiosity. I was an atheist by 1979, but an atheist who had lost his faith and was adrift intellectually.  The book came out in 1981. I checked it out from the library and was reading it at the time my son was born. I distantly remember becoming interested in science, reason, and logic after reading it.

On a side note – I remember the day Asimov died. I had the book Robots of Dawn in my back pocket. I was standing in the Science and Industry Museum in Los Angeles when I overheard another guest talking about Asimov’s death. I remember feeling very sad. 

Go read a book.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

My condolences

A long time friend of my family, a man named Omar, lost his brother this morning. The death was tragic and untimely. The deceased leaves behind two young children. It is truly a tragedy. I offer my condolences to Omar and his wife Imogen. I am sorry for your loss. 

An interesting church experience

I attended a Sunday night church service to watch my niece  participate in a Christmas play. My niece came out of her shell to perform beautifully. Her infection smile and enthusiasm made the event special. My wife and I enjoyed the show. The kids were entertaining. It was a truly a wonderful family event. I enjoyed myself. I took the normal good natured ribbing that comes with an atheist attending a church service in stride. There were smiles for everyone.

The Christmas play was held at Cypress Church. It is a nice place. The people were friendly and I felt welcome I expected an alter call, but there was none. The play was a musical spelling bee where children competed in an effort to spell the many names of God. The music was well written and performed to the best of the ability a group of eight year old children could muster.

We experienced a brief message from the pastor after the play. He invited anyone who was interested in learning more about the church to accept an information packet from one of the children. That was it. A no pressure event which I would gladly re-experience if my niece were to participate in another event. 

Shotgun to the face... probation

Why a 23-year-old pastor would possess a sawed-off shotgun, let alone show it to children, is beyond me. There is something about a sawed-off shotgun and pastor that just does not fit. I can't put my finger on it. Perhaps its that something so inherently violent would be in the hands of a man who is supposed to preach a message of peace.

Anyway... "Pastor" Keith Owens was given house arrest and probation for allowing a 15-year-old girl to die by a shotgun blast to her face. Probation seems so inadequate.

Twenty-three-year-old Keith Owens, of Duquesne, was sentenced Monday to two years of intermediate punishment, of which 18 months will be on house arrest, for his guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter.

Source: W.Pa. youth pastor gets probation in teen's death

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Why did the ATF get involved?

I keep track of Church fires. My reason is simple. The perception of the public is that bad actors are burning down America's churches. The facts are very different. There is no doubt that people are burning down churches. The problem is that many of these cases find the people who owned/operated the church to be at fault. These stories never get out to the public. Instead, high profile cases are paraded in the press as examples of the nonexistent war on religion.

Take the case of the fire at Sarah Palin’s old church, the Wasilla Bible Church. An arsonist ignited a fire on December 12. Nobody was hurt, but the building suffered and estimated $1 million in damage. My question is, why did the federal government get involved in a simple fire?

The ATF issued a press release today. ATF Joins Church Arson Investigation. The arson investigation team now includes the Alaska State Fire Marshal, The Wasilla Police Department, the Central Mat-Su Fire Department, and the Anchorage Fire Department. I am sure more resources will be applied to the problem as the case progresses. But why? Does the fire somehow get special status because it occurred in a church?

I have a heart. If this were to happen in my own community I would want to see it investigated and those responsible held accountable. Since it is a church, I would not waste my money donating for its repair. If you want to help. You can send a donation to this address.

I’m not going to link to my source – I don’t like Michelle Malkin very much.

1. Please make your check payable to: Wasilla Bible Church

2. Mail your check to:

Wasilla Bible Church
1651 W. Nicola Avenue
Wasilla, Alaska 99654

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Lubbock is in Texas, right?

The first time I met somebody from Lubbock was back in the early 80s. I was in the service leaning my craft at tech school. I was in charge of a floor in my dorm. One night while making my rounds I investigated noises coming from a dorm room. I open the door to find two men in what they claimed was consensual sex with a woman. Except that the woman had her hands pinned behind her and they were using a hammer handle to violate her.

The nice thing about the service is that I got to beat the crap out of them before the MPs got to beat the crap of them. In the end, neither man was seriously punished. The woman took a voluntary discharged.

Both the men were from Lubbock. Two weeks before they had tried to get me to go to an off base church. They were both devout Baptists. They promised that if I went to church, I could get off of Sunday lawn duty. I declined. I was such a screw up, I knew they could not make good on their promise.

Over the years I’ve met many people from Lubbock, with a few exceptions, most were no better than my two acquaintances from my days in the service. Take the intellectual dishonesty of Arnold H. Loewy. He suggests that Intelligent Design should be taught in school because it will help our children learn to think. In his introductory paragraph, he claims to be an academic but leaves out his religious affiliation.

Currently, a national debate is raging over whether or not to teach intelligent design in public schools. For the most part, fundamentalist Christians support the idea while scientists and most other academics oppose it. Despite my status as an academic, I think intelligent design should be taught in public schools, if it is done the right way.

He is an academic. But the position he stakes out is dishonest. He aligns himself with the forces of science and reason when he is in fact a Christian legal activist.  He also paints the picture inaccurately. The is no raging national debate, there is only religious activism and the forces who oppose it. Plus, he leaves out that the U.S. Constitution sides with science. By painting the picture the way he wants us to see it, he can control the context and the content of logically flaw argument which follows.

Read it for yourself, and then weep for the people of Lubbock. With educators like this, there is little hope for their future.

Why is this news?

Do we really need to pray for Blagojevich and is this really newsworthy? OK - so the Fort Mill Times is a small community rag, I get that. But do they need to manufacture feel good crap in order to sell papers?

Acree was one of the ministers who prayed with Blagojevich at his North Side home last week a few days after the Democrat was arrested on federal corruption charges. Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

So Blagojevich prayed after his bust for corruption. Does that strike any of you as the height of hypocrisy? Now he’s sorry? If he plays the religion card does that mean we should forgive him because he’s just a misguided Christian? This whole thing makes my skin crawl.

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Blogroll Update: Lay Theism

Lay Theism has joined the Atheist Blogroll. The author has been kind enough to provide an introduction.

In the author’s own words:

After many years of reading, thinking, experiencing, observing, and even sometimes praying, I have finally settled into the belief that this life is all we have. I was brought up in a typical nuclear family with Bible Belt teachings and surroundings. I attended church and went to private, religious school. But, after nearly four decades on this amazing, beautiful planet, I have concluded that this is all there is& there is no after-life, no mysticism, no supernatural, no omniscience, no messiah, and certainly no god.

Whatever your beliefs, you are welcome at Lay Theism. More than anything I am looking for truth and wisdom, which is clearly not within modern religion. I hope you find something that you have been looking for too.

Drop in and say hi!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I never believe what Bush says

I’m not saying President Bush is a liar. No, I believe he presents a story in the best possible light, even when it's fictional. Take his radio address today. He talked about the war on drugs. He told a story in order to spin the 8 year effort as a success. He also took the opportunity to plug his faith-based efforts to cure drug addiction. The success of these faith-based programs are questionable at best.

Taken together, our efforts to reduce demand, cut supply, and help people break the chains of addiction are yielding measurable results. Over the past seven years, marijuana use by young people has dropped by 25 percent. Methamphetamine use by young people is down by 50 percent. And the use of cocaine, hallucinogens, steroids, and alcohol by America's youth are all on the decline. Overall, illegal drug use by Americans is down by 25 percent -- meaning we have helped approximately 900,000 young people stay clean.

Source: Radio Address by President Bush to the Nation

The problem is that Bush’s policies have also helped several million young people find their way into America’s jails and prisons. NORML keeps track for a reason. It’s because President Bush will never say we arrested eight hundred and seventy thousand people for marijuana offenses in 2007 alone, and several million people since he redoubled the government’s war on drugs.

US Marijuana Arrests

Nor will he mention that the war on drugs has produced ruthlessly efficient drug cartels who routinely murder people in in Mexican border towns like Juarez, where 1500 people have been gunned down this year. We cause this by creating demand and limiting supply. In legal parlance, we are culpable.

Instead, President Bush shills for Christian fundamentalist who do not want to see the faith-based gravy train come to an end with the Bush administration. Our President acts as a Christian surrogate by delivering the testimony of Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. I appreciate the story of Josh Hamilton. I like seeing people get their lives together. My problem is that Josh Hamilton has nothing to do with the war on drugs or with faith-based efforts to help drug addicts. Hamilton was a rich self-absorbed coke addict who cleaned his life up when faced with losing everything. He did it through religion. Great, whatever works. But Bush’s radio address was misdirection, plain and simple.

I think Bush’s radio address is government sponsored evangelism.It focused attention on Josh Hamilton’s ministry – Triple Play Ministries, while trying to link religion to our nations failed drug policies. It’s enough to make this life long libertarian vote for a democrat. I wonder if President-elect Obama will end the drug war by legalizing marijuana?

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A small victory in the fight against theocracy

Michael and Marla Sklars have a case working through the courts in an effort to have their children's tuition and fees claimed as a tax deduction. Their children attend a private Orthodox Jewish day school.

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Sklars’ argument.

"We are pleased that the IRS's denial of the Sklars' claimed deductions was upheld by the Tax Court and the Ninth Circuit," said Nathan J. Hochman, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Tax Division. "While taxpayers may choose to enroll their children in religious schools, the Tax Code should not subsidize this choice."

The implications if this case had succeeded were profound. Children would move from a secular education to a religious education in droves. The implications for American society would have been to increase sectarian religiosity. I don’t think we need more of that…

You can read the legal brief here and the Justice Department Press Release here.

Hat Tip PR Newswire

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Child Pornographers Beware

In a press release Thursday, the Justice Department announced an ongoing effort to capture international child pornographers. 60 people have been arrested, with more arrests likely. 11 children have been rescued so far.

The program is called Operation Joint Hammer. Law enforcement agencies from the United States and Europe are working together to target child pornographers working to distribute content over the internet.

In one case, European law enforcement officials discovered that a father was raping his young daughters and offering a photographer across the continent an opportunity to photograph these sexual attacks. Identification of the father led to the discovery of a commercial Web site maintained by the photographer, which he used to sell the images of the sexual abuse of those children along with many other images of other children whose sexual exploitation he commissioned. Law enforcement has determined that the customers of the Web site were located in nearly 30 countries around the world, including the United States.

I applaud the efforts of the Justice Department. Although I do not share the viewpoint that all pornography is bad, like most pornography involving consenting adults for example, child pornography is pure evil. I find pastors who prey on children particularly abhorrent, but the people who produce child porn deserve to lose their freedom for a very long time.

I know a few people who defend child pornography as a market driven force. They are hard core libertarians with ideological positions I find untenable. The problem with political and religious ideology is that they include or exclude people and behavior based on a position with with little basis in reality. The test for good or evil is replace with a definition that supports and ideology. It’s one of the reasons the catholic church fights against the distribution of condom in the fight against AIDS. It one the reasons Christian fundamentalists exclude gays from basic human rights, like marriage. And it is one of the reasons some libertarians include protection for child pornographers in their rhetoric. I tend to regard all ideological positions with suspicion, even my own.

Hat Tip: PR Newswire

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Mexican Playboy Publishes Nude Virgin Mary on Cover

Something tells me this Mary is not a virgin.

The December issue features model Maria Florencia Onori posing as the Virgin wearing nothing but an angelic white cloth.

I’m not going to publish the cover here. And not for the reasons you might think. The only image I could find is copyrighted. Go ahead and follow this link, it is SFW.

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What country has the lowest age of consent in Europe?

Vatican City - 12 years old. This explains so much.

16 is lowest age of consent is the United States.

I’m trying something new

For the last 25 year or so ,when I’ve been greeted with Merry Christmas, I’ve said the same in return. Over the last two weeks I’ve responded to these greetings with a simple, “I don’t celebrate Christmas”. When they ask why, I tell them that I am an Atheist and that Christmas is a Christian holiday.

Sometimes they respond with, “Everybody celebrates Christmas”.

I ask if the celebrate Chanukah, they typically answer , “No, I’m not Jewish”.

I say something like. “My point exactly”.

This normally leads to a dialog on the meaning of Christmas and the holiday season. I hear a lot of people say that Christmas is really just all about getting together with your family. I smile at this because they are talking about the secular Christmas instead of the religious one. The secular version is by far the most popular conversation topic.

I’ve never been an assertive atheist at work. People feel free to tell me what they believe all the time. I listen, but rarely tell them I am an atheist. I find it’s fun to engage with others on the topic. They are often open and interested in my point of view. The most interesting comment so far came from a devout catholic who was disturbed that my family does not put up Christmas lights. When I mentioned that a sting of lights on the front of my house is in no way even remotely Christ like, and that I would never hang lights. She asked why I was against Christmas lights if they were not a religious symbol. I told her that hanging lights would cut into my blogging.

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