People still find this, eh?

April 20, 2013

I haven’t checked my stats in…what month is this? Nine months, actually. Was just at a Freethinker Banned Book night this week and a couple of the guys asked why I wasn’t doing my blog anymore and I admit to feeling some shame. It’s been crazy long. I moved in with my boyfriend, the Man, and his son, the Little Man, and got engaged in September and we’re getting married this October and most of the days have been spent with work and housework. Haven’t even been doing much of the Freethinker stuff; scheduling conflicts most of the time.

I should find some time to write, though. Surely there’s time somewhere in the week. People busier than me manage it…


Froggy went a courtin’ in India

July 6, 2012

I started reading a book this morning called The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson and so far it looks like it’ll be interesting. The point of the book is to outline how everyone, no matter if religious or atheist, will have odd beliefs that defy logic. This reminded me of an article that I read last week about a rain bringing ritual in India:

Farmers in Berhampur, India have staged a ‘frog wedding’ in an attempt to bring rain to the region.

After weeks of intense, dry heat, residents decided to carry out the age-old ritual, which is believed to please the rain gods.

A full Hindu wedding ceremony took place at a local temple, as attendees blew trumpets and sang songs.

The frog ‘couple’ were adorned with flowers and tinsel as locals chanted Hindu hymns and farmers put colourful streaks of powder on the female frog’s head.

It seems the custom may have worked, as reports suggest that the current weather in Berhampur is stormy with “100% chance of precipitation”.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? So does the notion that a person’s belongings retain an essence of the person long after they’ve died but people will still revere trinkets and clothing and upright pianos if we think someone important once owned or touched them.

We just seem geared toward making room in their heads for any and all kind of nonsense. I suppose that’s what makes us human. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do all we can to be aware of the absurdities of it, though. The more we know of the reasons why we react like we do, the more we can do to consciously override the worst of it. Assuming people have reached the point where they want to…


Should Christian photographers take gay photos?

July 3, 2012

Worthy of a special round of Scruples, this one. I ran across a story of New Mexico event photographers who wound up in a bit of hot water over refusing to take photos for a lesbian wedding. The lesbian couple in question took the matter to the Human Rights Commission back in 2006 and Elaine and Jon Huguenin, joint owners of Elaine Photography, have now been asked to pay $7000 for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I’m going to say they shouldn’t have to. This isn’t a case of a Justice of the Peace refusing to wed a lesbian couple, or people who won’t rent to them. It’s wedding photography and I think all the couple should have done was say, “Screw you then, we’ll give our money to somebody else,” and then paid for some less homophobic company to capture their memorable day forever. I can’t imagine they were the only photographers available in town.

I’m also going to say that I think consumers need to do more research into the companies they want to deal with and maybe this couple was right to want to make an example of the Huguenins. If their beliefs are going to be getting in the way of doing their job, then perhaps they should either switch beliefs or switch jobs.

Another article about the case quotes Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who tries to make the case that this is still more evidence of religious “rights” being whittled away:

“I think this case illustrates a disturbing trend that we’re seeing in general, which is a shrinking of religious liberty and [a shrinking] of the area in which we can act on our religious convictions to only the four walls of our homes or the four walls of our churches,”

he warns, but NEWS FLASH! Religion needs to be pulled out of the public areas. It really needs to be. Keep the public areas secular and be as religious as you want to be at home and your church. The rest of the city/province/state/country should be kept religion free so no group gets preferential treatment and no group winds up feeling slighted. Christians are used to assuming they ought to get preferential treatment but that’s an assumption that needs to be set aside as places get more and more multicultural. I know many Christians think they ought to be allowed to convert everyone they see so the whole world is Christian like they are, but tough tits. People are allowed to hold other religious beliefs. Including no religious beliefs. Laws and ethics and morality can be built up and upheld without resorting to what people think some god thinks.

I’m just throwing all that out there. What about readers? What are your thoughts here?


A Quesion of Atheist Scruples – round 8

July 3, 2012

(I missed last Tuesday on account of faulty time management. How do people busier than me keep up on their excellent blogs and still get everything accomplished?)

Same setup as other weeks. I’ll answer three Scruples questions and leave a fourth for readers. Feel free to weigh in on the others, though.

A close friend will be interviewed for a job with your employer. He asks you for a list of the questions in advance. Do you supply it?

I think most employers only interview the ones that qualify based on skills and previous experience (unless it’s seniority-based, then be ready to be passed over when someone more senior yet essentially unskilled applies for the same position). The job I have, I wouldn’t have access to a list like that anyway. All I could do is explain what kind of work it is and what there’s been for turnover. A lot of people get worried about interviews but I don’t know if prep work really can boost a person’s chances of getting the job. Confidence is one thing but overconfidence can look a bit too much like arrogance and that sort of attitude can be pretty off-putting. Don’t come across like a know-it-all and try to stay relaxed. That’s all the advice I’d be able to give. Eat a banana beforehand and smile…

You are advised to invest in a company which does well because of its monopoly but makes a poor product. You are sure to profit. Do you invest?

Sounds like Walmart. I had stock in the company while I worked there. Five years later (this year), I finally got around to telling them I’d like to sell it. I do have an RRSP plan on the go with money going toward that every month. I should be more cognizant of what my money is going toward, actually. Something to do something about down the road here. As far as the question, I think I’d pass on it.

The people who find your beloved cat injured in a ditch pay $150 for veterinary care and adopt it. You discover what happened three months later. Do you let them keep the cat?

I love cats. I grew up with transient farm cats rather than beloved pets for the most part. I’ll tell this story, though. When I was 6 or 7 I had this one called Tiger. He and I spent a lot of time together. The summer my parents invited a professional photographer to take pictures of the family in the yard, Tiger photobombed almost every sitting. Dad finally tossed the cat into the house even though he’d never before been allowed in there. For years I thought that my teasing him with a stuffed dog was the reason he buggered off but I suspect the real reason was that there weren’t any girl cats around and he had wanderlust.

If I’d found out later on that a neighbour had found him and paid for his vet visit, I might have begged Mom or Dad to have a word and see about getting him back but I think my folks would have said no. And, unless we’re talking about an expensive pedigree cat I saved up to buy and had as my companion for several years before the loss, the answer would probably still be no. By this point, the new family will have bonded with the cat and it wouldn’t feel right to barge in and ask for it back, even if I offered to pay back the money for the vet bills.

You are a politician. The people who elected you demand that you take a position on abortion which is against your personal convictions. Do you?


It’s an exorcism, not a sexorcism

July 2, 2012

Here’s a news story out of Virginia, where a woman is suing Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, the Catholic priest she’d gone to for an exorcism. According to the suit brought against the Diocese of Arlington (and the anti-abortion group he’d been president of for some reason), his behaviour made the woman feel she wasn’t being exorcised as much as sexually molested. And not just once. This went on for nearly two years.

The woman, identified in the suit as Jane Doe, said she signed an “agreement for spiritual help” with Euteneuer in February 2008 because “she believed she was in desperate need of the rite of exorcism,” the suit said.

Euteneuer repeatedly hugged, kissed and groped the woman, and said he was “blowing the Holy Spirit into her,” according to the suit, which was filed on June 19.

Euteneuer told the woman to undress on about six occasions, touched and kissed her body, and put his finger in her vagina, court documents said.

The suit alleges that [Bishop] Loverde and the Diocese of Arlington knew Euteneuer would perform an exorcism on the woman.

But, the question needs to be asked, how aware were they of Euteneuer’s style? Did they know that when he said “exorcism” he really meant “get it on with a gullible woman”?

Asked about the suit, the Diocese of Arlington said Euteneuer had never been its employee. He worked for Human Life International, an independent company, subject to his bishop in Palm Beach, it said.

“Rev. Euteneuer was not authorized to perform an exorcism on the plaintiff,” it said in a statement, adding that the diocese had its own exorcist.

And there’s the apparent answer. She didn’t go to a proper exorcist. So really, this is all her fault…

According to the article, she and Euteneuer reached a private settlement on the issue earlier and his status as priest has essentially been revoked by the Diocese of Palm Beach. It makes little sense to include Human Life International in the suit. President he might have been, but this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the group itself. It sounds like they’ve since distanced themselves from him and want to keep their reputation from being sullied further.

The woman is hoping for a $5.3 million payout. I know you can’t really put a price on human suffering but I really doubt she’ll get anywhere near that amount, if anything at all. Sexual abuse trials are hard to win at the best of times, let alone when it’s a church involved.

I’ll update if I ever see more about it.


Jesus watches you pee outside and judges you

June 29, 2012

I’ve been waiting for another case of pareidolia and, by no surprise, the Daily Mail delivers Jesus appearing in the grit and crumble on the side of a take-away Chinese restaurant.

Mr Ridley, 39, immediately took a photograph of the bizarre sight outside the Mayho Chinese Takeaway.

He said: ‘We were a little drunk at the time and went to get something to eat.

‘We were waiting for our meal outside when we saw it.

‘It was Jesus looking right at us, we were shocked and couldn’t believe it. ‘It’s a miracle!

‘The best thing about it is the face is actually facing the direction of St Luke’s Church so it looks like it is supposed to be there.

‘Since I took the picture, we have shown it to loads of people and all of them can see it instantly.

‘It is amazing and they can’t believe it.’

I wonder if they tell their friends they’re looking at Jesus, or if their friends come to that (silly) conclusion without prompting. People always seem willing to believe it’s Jesus.

Side note, I was listening to a Skeptics Guide podcast a while back that mentioned something called audio paredolia. Quoting what Steven Novella wrote about it later:

Skeptics love talking about pareidolia, whether visual or audio, because it is right in the sweet spot of the skeptical skill set – understanding why people often come to dubious and even bizarre conclusions because they fail to understand the nature of the human mind. It’s also fun and easily demonstrated, and so it makes an excellent skeptical lesson – your brain can be fooled, you can be fooled, and in order to properly interpret this one needs only to understand a little bit about how our brains work. Our brain actively process sensory input, making many assmptions, and forcing fits to recognized patterns. Our brains do not give a truly objective and accurate representation of the world. It give a human one – full of pattern recognition – sometimes real, sometimes forced.

Also in there is a link to a video of a group of singers performing a gospel tune of some kind. The subtitles provided don’t match what they actually say, but what it could sound like they’re saying. What it sounds like they’re saying is nothing you’d expect…


Sexual assault scandal hits religion TV – again

June 28, 2012

The Trinity Broadcasting Network is under fire at the moment on account of a lawsuit going on. It involves a granddaughter of the network’s founders. Carra Crouch, age 19, is claiming she was raped by a 30 year male employee when she was thirteen and that TBN executives hushed it up rather than report it to the authorities.

“Jan (Crouch) became furious and began screaming at Ms. Crouch, a thirteen year old girl, and began telling her ‘it is your fault,’” according to the suit.

Carra Crouch then told John Casoria, TBN’s in-house counsel and her second cousin; he became agitated and told her that he didn’t believe her, it says. “He elaborated by stating he further believed she was already sexually active ‘so it did not really matter’ and he ‘believed she may have propositioned him,’ ” the suit alleges.

Unfortunately, that’s often the way rape reports are received. A fine upstanding man.. he must have been coerced by that Lolita!

“Ms. Crouch, a thirteen year old girl, had not been sexually active and was absolutely devastated about what happened and about how John and Jan responded to her.”

Both Jan Crouch and John Casoria are ordained ministers, and as such, are legally required to report suspected child abuse to authorities under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, the suit says. No report was made, and TBN “deliberately covered up the incident to protect Trinity Broadcasting from negative publicity,” it alleges.

I knew about this station, I think, but being Canadian and without cable or satellite (by choice), no surprise it never occurred to me to look into news about them. Apparently I missed a money scandal back in February. Brittany Koper, Carra’s sister, accused the TBN board of diverting millions of dollars away from their charity work. TBN, on the other hand, filed suit against Koper and her husband the month before, accusing them of siphoning the money while they were on TBN’s board. That suit was dismissed in January, unsettled.

Redemption Strategies Inc. — a corporation formed by Loe on Oct. 17 — sued the Koperts on Oct. 18, charging embezzlement, fraud, intentional misrepresentation and other misdeeds. At the time, Davert & Loe were still representing Koper, MacLeod said.

“It’s kind of a sordid affair,” said MacLeod, Koper’s attorney. “Many layers. But at the heart is the wrongful termination. She was terminated for insider whistleblowing.”

MacLeod is getting to be something of an old hand at suing TBN: He represented Brian Dugger, a gay broadcast engineer who sued Trinity in 2009, claiming he was harassed and discriminated against by employees of the world’s largest Christian broadcasting empire. Paul Crouch Jr. allegedly taunted Dugger with pornography, said TBN was no place for fairies and declared that ‘Brian has a man-gina!’ ”

Nice.

A bit more hunting got me a story from 2004 involving President and founder, Paul Crouch, and an accusation that he had a brief affair with a man by the name of Lonnie Ford back in 1996. That article reminds readers of other televangelist scandals, namely Jim Bakker (affair with and attempted pay off of a former Playboy playmate employed by him) and Jimmy Swaggart (admitted porn and prostitute addict).

The Crouches also have a singular line in defensiveness when it comes to criticism of the station – criticism that has spanned many lawsuits and included accusations from rival Christian organisations that TBN is spreading blasphemy.

“God, we proclaim death to anything or anyone that will lift a hand against this network and this ministry that belongs to you, God,” Crouch said in 1997.

A few years earlier, he reacted even more vehemently to critics he characterised as “heresy hunters.” “To hell with you!” he ranted during a praise-a-thon in 1991. “Quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s going to shoot you – if I don’t.”

The Crouches are positively tame compared with Benny Hinn, the network’s star performer, who has preached that Adam was a superman who flew to the moon and expressed his belief that one day the dead will be raised by watching TBN from inside their coffins.

I admit to a bit of a cackle over that one. I’ve heard of Benny Hinn somehow..or am I thinking of Benny Hill? Who’s funnier?

Anyway, this whole group seems like one I should do more research on. I’m really wondering what else I might have missed.


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