Sunday, September 25, 2011

Conflating atheists with the unchurched

I’ve had lengthy conversations with two Christian friends recently on the question of atheists and people who do not go to church. I found that they confuse the two types of people and conflate roles and characteristics. In a conversation about prison ministry, they repeated the Christian canard that prisons are full of atheists. I countered with statistics showing that almost all inmates believed in god or professed a religion of some sort. My friends asserted that prisoners declare a  believe in God, but they are  atheists. Their reasoning was simple, if they were Christians, they would not be in prison. I usually get a headache at this point.

I explained that atheists are people who assert that there  are no gods. People who profess a believe in God are theists, but they may not be Christians because they do not subscribe to a specific Christian theology.  I refer to theists who fit in this category as the unchurched, a term I learned from a pastor. I think it fits. There are lots of unchurched and few atheists. What bothers me is that many lay Christians do not see it this way. They often refer to what I call the unchurched as atheists or event agnostics. It is maddening.

My only weapon is dialog. I repeat myself as often as I can. I tell the story every time the question comes up. I even ask that my friends re-tell the story. I think its important to clarify things so that it paints the proper characterization. I’m not looking for god. I’m not interested in going to church or in religion at all. I think I speak for my fellow atheists. We are not the droids you are looking for.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ted Haggard sells his dignity

Well – I should say that Ted Haggard sells his what’s left of his dignity. He’s agreed to appear on ABC’s reality show Celebrity Wife Swap, with B list actor Gary Busey. I don’t understand what drives people to the spotlight. Especially those who have fallen from grace as publically as Ted Haggard. The outcome cannot possibly be good. It must be the money, or maybe the fame. If it is for money or for the fame, how is this Christ-like?

Ted Haggard did not show up for the first scheduled tapping at a Colorado Springs GLBT Pride Center where he and Gary Busey were supposed to put together care packages for deployed gay soldiers. Haggard did not offer an explanation. Man up Haggard. Gays don’t bite. You know that.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Wiccan oddness. Now with cats

I have a Google news filter watching all things Wiccan. I want to catch Wiccan crime. I’ve had to rename it Wiccan oddness. Sure, Wiccans commit crime, but they do a lot of weird shit too. Take Wiccan Gabriella Bernabei. A judge accepted her Alford plea on animal cruelty charges. During the investigation, authorities found  over 100 dead cats in her freezer. Bernabei wanted to give the cats a Wiccan burial. She is claiming religious persecution.

The mother of three maintains her innocence and says she’s been unfairly targeted because of her Wiccan beliefs.

“I feel this is an attack on my religion,” Bernabei said. “I was told, ‘Unless you accept the plea offer, you’ll be arrested ... and will spend 10 years in jail.’

“I felt like I had no choice (but to enter into the agreement).”

Source:: Woman found guilty of animal cruelty, child neglect

Did I mention it was a non-functioning freezer?

A sad end to a corrupt life

George Washington Burnett was a former pastor and a convicted child molester. At 82, his neighbors though of him as a kindly old neighborhood grandfather. I believe his neighbors did not know of his past.  Somebody he knew murdered him. He was shot and stabbed to death. It was a cruel end to a tragically sad life. At times like this, I must reconsider my telling of the story.  Do I praise his good works, or do I say that street justice caught up with a religious hypocrite? I’m inclined to be kind. He served his time, but that is often not enough for the victims who carry the scares of abuse for life.

There were multiple victims; there may be more that did not come forward. One may have settled an old score. Of course, it could be a case of robbery gone wrong or that of a prostitute turning on her John. The possibilities are endless.

A few years into the abuse, she was confronted by a woman who said Burnett raped her. At first she denied anything had been done to her, but when she found out she wasn’t the only victim, she broke her silence and told her family. Burnett was charged with five offences in 1993. He eventually pleaded guilty to three of those charges.

Source: Homicide victim a convicted sex offender

I would write the story like like this. Former pastor and convicted pedophile murdered in his own bed. A sad end to a corrupt life.

Church Accused Of Running Prostitution Ring

Sometimes hypocrisy is not hypocrisy. Sometimes what seems like hypocrisy is simply a common crime hiding behind a religious facade. The Phoenix Goddess Temple is simply a front from prostitution. It could just as easily been a massage parlor. So, thanks for all the tips, but this one does not actually rise to the level of religions hypocrisy. No, this case is less serious and much more humorous.

We can have a whole separate conversation on the subject of prostitution. I lean libertarian so I don’t have a problem with it. What about you?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Foo Fighters - Keepin it Clean in KC

From the Foo Fighters.

On Aug. 30th, 2011 Westboro Baptist Church called for a picket of the Foo Fighters show in Kansas City. We had a little something up our sleeve. God Bless America.

Suck it Westboro Baptists

Westboro Baptists, Religion, Hate, Foo Fighters.

A small victory against hypocrisy

Ernest Willis is the worst sort of Christian. One who spouts holiness and chastity, and then rapes a 15-year-old girl. What’s worse is that he managed to impregnate the child, cast her as the willing vixen in a bizarre staged apology, separate her from her family and church, and then see to it that his illicit child was put up for adoption. After all these un-Christ like behavior, he simply went back to attending Trinity Baptist Church in Concord as if nothing had ever happened.

In a small victory for belated justice, Willis was sentenced to 15-40 years in prison for rape. He was busted because of the internet and the conscience of somebody who attended the church and saw the victim’s apology.

Before his jury trial, Willis pleaded guilty to one count of statutory rape. In May, a jury convicted Willis of forcibly raping the girl twice in 1997.

Concord police had shelved the case in 1997 when they couldn't locate the victim. But a former church member who witnessed the girl's discipline session later described it on the Internet, and the investigation was revived last year when police learned of her whereabouts.

Source: NH convict in shamed girl's rape gets 15-30 years by Lynne Tuochy

I posted on the victim, Tina Anderson, in May of 2010.

13-years-ago a 15-year-old girl named Tina Anderson was forced to stand in front of her church and apologize for becoming pregnant. An adult member of the church named Ernest Willis allegedly raped her. She was his babysitter. After her public humiliation, she was spirited away to Colorado, where she lived with another pastor until she gave her baby up for adoption. If you need additional proof that religion is a sickness that eats the mind, look no further than this statement.

This crime stands as one of the worst examples of Baptist hypocrisy. The pastor at the time was Chuck Phelps. He should be held responsible for his part in this injustice. If not criminally, then a civil suit is justified. Phelps is the worst of the worst when it comes to Christian leadership. Yet he still preaches his poison, and there is no telling how many other young girls may have been victimized by his overzealous biblical discipline sessions. Baptists – why do you let this man preach? Hell, why do you follow this man at all?

Photo - Jon Boxing

Jon boxing #8

I shot a few photos of my son Jon doing his boxing workout. He’s a remarkable man whose dedication to boxing is surprising given his gentle nature. Two years ago he decided to lose over 100 pounds and get in shape. A strict diet together with joining a real boxing gym up in Oakland have turned him into a hard hitting heavyweight. He’s 6’3” and about 210. He can hit the heavy bag hard enough to shake my whole house. I’m proud of him.

You can see 6 other photos here.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Pastor Tedd Butler faces more charges

Tedd Butler is a Baptist pastor in Walker, MI. He faces life in prison over 2 counts of first-degree sexual assault. An additional charge of second-degree sexual assault was added this week. The victims are children.

Police investigators have said the alleged assaults happened several years ago, in the 1980s and 1990s. The Ottawa County incident involved a boy whose family attended Gospel Light Baptist Church in Walker, where Butler has served as a pastor.

Source: Ottawa County pastor faces more sexual assault charges

The church website contains the following statement.

Gospel Light Baptist Church understands that there is a pending case against our pastor. Pastor Butler has been suspended pending the outcome of this case. We are praying for everyone involved in this case. We are continuing ahead with normal church activities. We request the media to respect the privacy of our church and church members.

Their request for privacy is asking too much, but I admire that they addressed the problem directly. Openness is the key to healing.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Youth pastor Joshua Amoroso sentenced

I profiled the depravity of youth pastor Joshua Amoroso back in December of 2010. He raped a 14-year-old girl from his youth group. The victim thought that they were in love, The truth was a different story. Amoroso was in it for the sex with children. Good news America! Amoroso was sentenced to life in prison. No wait… he got just60 days. How did that happen? How did an admitted pedophile get just 60 days?

A Colorado Springs youth pastor who was fired after admitting to a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl in his youth group was sentenced Thursday to 60 days in jail and 10 years-to-life probation.

In handing down his sentence, a judge told Joshua Amoroso he was “sickened” by the betrayal of trust and warned the 22-year-old that violating the terms of his probation could result in a life sentence.

Read more: Youth pastor's sentence comes with stern words from judge

The good news is that he cannot serve as a pastor until his probation expires. Wait.. is that good news? They really screwed up this case. In what other profession are you granted this level of leniency? I smell a rat.

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Christianity bears rotten fruit in Africa

Uromi is an average African city. It’s located in Nigeria. It’s economy is based on agriculture. In this average city is an average Pentecostal church. This is where we drop the average tag –  the pastor, who drives a Mercedes Benz car, stands accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. The pastor calls rape, “carrying out deliverance.”

I will not go into the graphic details of this case. You can read the story for yourself. Let’s look a case of cognitive dissonance instead.

The Chairman, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Esan North East Local Government Area chapter, Rev. Francis Okhai, confirmed that the matter had been reported to the PFN, to which the alleged rapist pastor belongs.

The pastor belongs to the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. That’s a good thing since being a member implies some governance. But…

He said several cases of misconduct had earlier been reported against the pastor, but that it was the first time that allegation of rape was reported.

There have been other misconduct allegations, so – that should count for something, right?

Okhai added that disciplinary action would be taken against the pastor if found wanting “in the abominable act, because  the PFN does not condone any misconduct from its members”.

The PFN does not tolerate misconduct. WTF? I think he means that the PFN tolerates misconduct unless it’s in public and involves raping little girls.

When I read these cases, and there are a lot of them, I find a few common elements. In a poor country he pastor has the trappings of wealth and power. In this case, wealth is depicted by his choice of a Mercedes Benz and power by his dominance of a child. It’s Christianity at its best.

Church fires and Christian privilege

St. Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Ladera Heights caught fire early this morning. I saw a story about it on the morning news today. The reported ended the segment by saying, “Because it is a church, police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.” It bothered me to hear this. There are so many other possible causes for a fire. I’d think accidental ignition, negligence, and insurance fraud are all likely candidates. Why start with the assumption that it could be a hate crime? Perhaps saying that the cause of fire is under investigation would be a reasonable closing statement. If there is an indication of foul play, then the  reporter should state that the cause of the fire  is suspicious. Launching a hate crime investigation makes it sound as if the authorities are giving the possibility of a hate crime greater importance because it occurred at a religious institution. Statistics do not support this. The vast majority of church fires are accidental. Assuming otherwise makes this just another example of wrongheaded Christian privilege.

It is a small thing. I know this. We must speak up.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Welcome to Texas, now gtfo

Gabriel Elizondo of Al Jazeera visits the small Texas city of Booker and runs into local haters. Elizondo’s blog post made my “Only in Texas” list. He ran into school system superintendent Michael Lee.
“No. You can’t film, you can’t take pictures, or interview people.”
“OK, can I ask why? And if you allow me can I explain…”
Cut off.
“No, I just expect that you will respect it.”
Clearly he didn’t want to hear anything from me.
Al Jazeera is not welcome here.
Read the rest of the story.
I find myself turning to Al Jazeera as a source for news more and more. I use their iPod app day. It’s a shame Texas cannot see them for what they are, A good source for news and a throwback to when journalism was a profession.

Send your thoughts to Michael LeeL or visit his website.

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Foodgasm - Damascus Grill in Denver

I don’t really know where to start on this review. I liked Damascus Grill in Denvereverything about the Damascus Grill. I found it on Yelp while looking for a quick meal near our hotel after flying into Denver last weekend. It was highly rated and my wife and I love Middle Eastern food. We drove the five miles to Littleton and found an unassuming building. We were immediately welcomed by a friendly hipster host. It’s a family owned place and our host was proud to explain that the recipes were handed down by his grandmother. This turned out to be true too. The flavors in the food were distinct and unique. I’ve eaten a lot of Middle Eastern food. This is among the best I’ve found in the United States.

I was a surprised to hear Matisyahu playing as the house music. Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jew and reggae artist. I’m a big fan. Yet the Damascus grill is a Muslim establishment. When the music changed to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, I asked our host about his choice in music. Our host was amazed that I knew of Matisyahu and went on to gush about how the music transcends culture and religion and makes him feel one with the rest of humanity. I could not argue with that, I’m an atheist who has seen Matisyahu in concert and owns every song he’s ever made. I think he’s a wonderful artist. 

GrillledMushroomsThe good vibes transferred to the table. We started with grilled mushrooms ($5.95). I could have ate a complete meal of just this one item. They were delicious. I’ve tried countless recipes myself. All fall short. These are the best grilled mushrooms I’ve ever had. I must have the recipe!

We completed the mushrooms with the pickle plate ($4.95). It’s full of pickled cucumbers, olives, and turnips.  I munched my way through it in happy pickle bliss.

Since it was a lunch visit we opted for sandwiches. I had the Syrian sausage sandwiches($5.95). My wife had the Lamb & Beef Shawarma ($6.45). It was at this point that the full on foodgasm entered the picture. The taste was so overwhelming we had to take breaks between bites to keep our systems from shutting down.

I highly recommend the Damascus Grill. Give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

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Introducing Girlcartridge

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, Girlcartridge.

Apart from the textbook definition of atheism, this blog aims to expose my particular flavor of atheism as well as my general worldview.

In particular, I feel that my point of view differs substantially from that of many other atheists out there, in two main respects. Firstly, I disagree with those who tend to think that religion is always and everywhere a destructive phenomenon. Secondly, I don't think that atheism really has the capacity to enhance one's own life, or, for that matter, is necessarily preferable to a religious mindset in any way that ever becomes important.

To some small degree, it is also about me, my life, and the stuff I like. 

I encourage all visitors to share their thoughts through comments or email. Thank you in welcoming me to the atheist blogroll.

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll for more information. or visit the the full Atheist Blogroll membership list.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Atheists and Sex Offenders

Via The Thinking Atheist

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Atheist Blogroll update - Noobs

We have a crop of noobs joining the Atheist Blogroll for our September update. Enjoy.

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Introducing The Spiritual Rationalist

Please join me in welcoming one of the newest members of the Atheist Blogroll, The Spiritual Rationalist.

Despite twelve years of Catholic school, I have never been a believer. I guess I was just born without the gene! Nevertheless, I've always tried to explore others' ideas and practices, on the theory that just because you can't use one part of a product, it doesn't mean you have to throw the whole thing away.

I spent over a decade traveling the world, and I've lived in both Europe and the US. I've read the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Koran. I've studied engineering, yoga, martial arts, shooting sports, and ballroom dancing. What I've discovered is that a) spirituality is just a spooky sounding word for any of a number of methods for learning about yourself and your mind, and b) whatever word you use, doing so is the single most important thing in learning to be happy.

My blog, The Spiritual Rationalist, is dedicated to my thoughts both on gaining self-knowledge and using your mind to eliminate misunderstanding and delusion.

Are you interested in becoming a member? Visit the Atheist Blogroll for more information. or visit the the full Atheist Blogroll membership list.

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Friday, September 02, 2011

CSA link dump

There are endless stories about Clergy Sexual Abuse (CSA) inside the Catholic church. Here are the latest stories.

Testimony sheds light on how Philadelphia Archdiocese handled abuse complaints – A behind the scenes look at corruption, mismanagement and attempts to thwart justice.

Report Recommends Policy Changes For Diocese – Big surprise here. The Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese did not follow its own reporting rules.

Boston cardinal names abuse suspects – With a few glaring omissions.

Church abuse victims call for government to step in – Australians want help from their government. Apparently, the catholic church is not playing ball.

Five priests from North Andover Ties on Archdiocese Sexual Abuse List – For the record: James C. Shaughnessey, James T. McDonald, Benjamin J. McMahon Jr., Paul J. Finegan, and Steven W. Poitras.

Archdiocese creates Healing Garden for victims of clergy abuse – That’s one step better than praying for the victims.

Settlement of sex abuse case requires release of archdiocese files – 35 more pedophile priests are about to be outed by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Champaign man gets $6.33 million in priest sexual-abuse case – A drop in the bucket for a case that has dragged on for years.

Diocese of Trenton settles priest sex abuse case for $1M with 5 altar boys from Ewing church – A small price to pay for the sins of Rev. Ronald Becker. I wonder if they take the cost of settlement into account when minting new priests?

Clergy devalues language in response to child sex abuse – Clergy weasel words. We’ve come to expect them.

Sunbury priest jailed for sex abuse – I’ll have to make a post about Rev. Michael Aulsebrook. He liked to molest 12-year-old boys.

These are the stories I’ve read. There are many more.

Pastor Joe Nix Ivey arrested

74-year-old Baptist pastor Joe Nix Ivey was arrested and charged with molesting a 10-year-old girl. The abuse took place in early 2010.

The girl, now 13, was interviewed Tuesday by a detective and a Child Protective Services worker at the Frederick County Child Advocacy Center. The girl said she and Ivey were watching a movie one morning after she had spent the night at Ivey's house. According to charging documents, Ivey then engaged in sexual contact with her for about 30 minutes. She said Ivey said nothing before or during the alleged contact, but told her afterward, "Don't tell anyone, it will ruin me," the documents state.

Source: Pastor, 74, accused of sexually abusing girl by Brian Englar

The parents of the girl made a few mistakes here. I’m sure they though leaving their daughter with a Baptist pastor was a good idea, but we all know its not a good idea at all. Poor girl. I wonder how long it will take for her to regain her trust in humanity?

Pastor Joe Nix Ivey, was a senior pastor at Barnesville Baptist Church in Montgomery County, MD. He’s already been erased from the website.

Youth pastor John Gamboa arrested

JohnGamboaSalano County youth pastor John Edward Gamboa is alleged to have engaged in some heavy petty and kissing with a girl under the age of 14. The girl was from his youth group and bible study. And get this – Gamboa was warned off the girl by the church and the girl’s parents after racy text messages were found on the girl’s phone.The continued to let him have access to the girl.

Police say Gamboa and the girl knew one another before they allegedly began talking and texting each other earlier this year. According to police, the parents learned of the communication and warned Gamboa to stop the inappropriate behavior after mediating the issue through the church. Police say Gamboa allegedly continued to meet with the girl on various occasions and engage in kissing and inappropriate touching with her.

Read more: Youth Pastor Arrested on Suspicion of Committing Lewd Acts With Girl

Let’s chronicle the mistakes.

  1. The parents report the crime to the church and did not notify the police.
  2. The church did not notify the police.
  3. The church may have violated California’s mandatory reporter laws.
  4. The church did not fire Gamboa.
  5. The parents did not remove their child from the church or youth group.
  6. The church did not increase monitoring.
  7. The parents did not increase monitoring.

Did I miss anything?

I need help in this case. Does anyone know what church Gamboa attended? It is not mentioned in the press.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

OMG his hat blew off

OMG his hat blew off – Hilarious.

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