If atheist and traveling in Britain, stay at the Travelodge: no bibles

August 19, 2014

There’s no real story here, but Fox and the Daily Mail and others like them want to make it one, apparently. Which article to pick on first.. the Mail, I guess, since Fox is just paraphrasing that anyway. The hotel’s stance is that they opted to pull the bibles once they renovated rather than promote one set of beliefs and ignore others.

A Church of England spokesman said: ‘It seems both tragic and bizarre that hotels would remove the word of God for the sake of ergonomic design, economic incentive or a spurious definition of the word “diversity”.’

It seems not all Travelodges even have Bibles available on request. At the branch in Battersea, south London, there was no Bible in the room or behind reception.

When requested, the receptionist could not find a copy and said no one had ever asked him for one in his four months of working there.Instead, he suggested using the hotel’s free wifi to ‘Google it and read it online’.

That seems a little on the “How dare he!?” side of things but isn’t it kind of silly to assume a hotel chain ought to store bibles on the premises? If you need a bible in your hotel room when you travel, why don’t you just bring your own? He has a point about just going online to find one, though. They’re everywhere. Pick whatever translation you want and you can find it to read somewhere. I prefer the Skeptics Annotated Bible for all my bible reading needs.

The Gideons have been foisting their bibles onto whoever will take them since 1899 but I don’t think saving souls is one of the mandates of a typical hotel chain. Hotels are on the hook to provide patrons with (hopefully clean) beds and bathrooms, and food that won’t kill them. Anything else is just perks. It’s a holdover from the notion that everyone you were possibly going to meet was going to be a Christian who’d be a bible reader automatically. Can’t say the same of everyone one meets these days, especially in a tourist-heavy place like London. It’s wrong to only provide one kind of reading material as if there were only one kind of person staying at the hotel.

Personally, I’d rather see other books or materials made available that don’t lean toward any religion. Throw some love poetry in the drawer. Supply books by local authors. Maybe something along the lines of “Here’s what’s Haunted” for people who like ghost hunt stuff when they travel. Trivia books maybe. Crossword puzzles or a handful of Pictionary cards and a notepad for drawing on.

Along these lines, I’ve been reading about the U.S. Navy and their hem/haw over keeping bibles available at their lodgings. They had pulled them out due to some complaints but put them back in again because of other complaints. The bibles will be staying in the rooms while “the policy is under review.”

Chaplain (Ret.) Col. Ron Crews, executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said. “Our national has a history of religious accommodation for military personnel since before George Washington established the chaplain corps in July 1775. Allowing Bibles in guest quarters is a continuation of our desire to serve those who serve us.”

He then claims there’s nothing to review. The Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to make the point that the Navy, a government agency, is promoting certain faiths over others. It should be all or nothing, no special treatment given to Christians. Alas, that seems to be a hard idea for some Christian people to wrap their holier-than-thou heads around…


How can anyone back Ken Ham?

July 22, 2014

Back away from him, yes. Back him? His brain baffles me with its illogical pronouncements.

Creationist Ken Ham, who recently debated Bill Nye the Science Guy over the origins of the universe, is calling for an end to the search for extraterrestrial life because aliens probably don’t exist — and if they do, they’re going to Hell anyway.

“You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe,” Ham wrote on his blog on Sunday. “This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.”.

And

Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”! Only descendants of Adam can be saved. God’s Son remains the “Godman” as our Savior. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we see the Father through the Son (and we see the Son through His Word). To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.

And

The search for extraterrestrial life is really driven by man’s rebellion against God in a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution!

The rest of his screed is here but it’s not worth the clicks.

I don’t think there’s any desperate attempt to prove evolution, either. It happens. Ken Ham and his ilk are wasting their time, energy and money promoting their very silly alternative.

It’d be interesting to find out if life happened on other worlds, or is happening on other bodies in this solar system.

And it’s good that humans have the drive to discover. Speaking biblically, it turned out to be the wrong move for Adam and Eve because apparently God really wanted them to stay obedient and stupid. In the real world, that ambition to know is what moves us forward and keeps us fed, watered and housed. That drive to know is why we also have so many gods and religions — for some of the bigger questions, our ancestors had no way to find the answers so put gods in as placeholders. And people like Ken Ham want to keep them there rather than find any real solid answers. It’s a shame, really. The world, the universe, and our place in both is far more fascinating when taking the science into account than it is just blowing it off with “God did it!”

My mind is blown by the very idea that we’re all star stuff. I trust those who say it’s so. I’m just blown by what that means.. it’s so big and fantastic and wild. No god invented by man can beat that, in my mind.


“The Turtle Moves…”

July 9, 2014

I can’t resist a Terry Pratchett quote when the opportunity arises.

This is really about the senseless killing of a tortoise by a Uganda police officer, however.

After Onegiu had killed the tortoise, a group of people belonging to the Charismatic faith prayed for him, before burning the dead reptile to ashes.

When contacted for a comment on the incident, Nebbi DPC Onesmus Mwesigwa burst into laughter and went about how Onegiu had called him, telling him what had happened.

“Yes, I got that report because Onegiu called me and narrated how the tortoise came to his house and tried to grab his legs. “As, you know in the villages, there is a lot of superstitions where people think ‘somebody is after me’. But, we consulted with some elders and his colleagues.”

The police boss called for calm from the residents and police officers, maintaining that their lives are not in danger as they may have assumed.

It wandered into his house and rather than figure out a way to lure it out gently, he harassed it with a plastic chair and shot it dead once it finally did wander out again. Was that really necessary?

And the prayer stuff.. take a superstition, add some hard-core religion and you’ve got a recipe for a special kind of insanity — at least when viewed from the outside by a skeptical atheist like myself.

Perhaps it made for some good (but strange) PR for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal currently underway in the country. Who knows. Downright stupid and an abuse of the man’s power in the community, if I do say so. So very stupid.


I didn’t give out bibles or candy

November 1, 2011

I live in an apartment building and the only knock on my door last night was due to my caretaker. As to candy, I’m hoping leftovers make it to work today. I didn’t bother buying any.

I was hoping this was a joke but it turns out a Canadian pastor really did encourage kids to be Jesus Weeners this year and requested that parents dress their kids in white instead of evil costumes, and pass out bibles instead of sinfully delicious treats.

The idea has caught on in communities across North America, according to Jesus Ween creator Paul Ade. He’s hoping it will bring a new perspective to an otherwise pagan festival, he said.

“I do not associate myself with ghosts, demons, Satan and witches. These are things I want to get rid of,” he said.

“If it’s OK for a child to know about demons, it should also be OK for a child to know about Jesus.”

Jesus Ween has attracted international attention, with media reports circulating as far away as Britain.

That’s because international media latches onto anything remotely ridiculous and this completely qualifies. Alas, it’s hitting the right notes in some circles:

As of Thursday, Jesus Ween had more than 4,000 supporters on Facebook. Fans of the movement have erected billboards in Toronto and some people have put bumper stickers on vehicles.

The pastor has 200 “kid-friendly” bibles ready to distribute to Calgary children on Monday. “I don’t think we’re ruining anybody’s fun. Getting a bible is not getting a bomb. It’s nothing really bad,” Ade said.

A “kid-friendly” bible won’t be bad, I suppose, just watered down and essentially harmless bits of Jesus-love and kumbaya, etc. Let them get wind of the messier, juicier stories from the adult-oriented version when they’re older, eh? Ezekiel’s zombie army, the old bald man who set bears on kids who teased him, anything out of Revelation…


Thou shalt not steal — unless the church needs money?

March 9, 2011

The pastor of Bethel Christian Community church in Montreal reportedly devised a scheme to steal money from a zoo in Quebec.

Quebec police have charged Mwinda Lezoka, 47, with siphoning nearly $1 million from a zoo near the U.S. border.

Police said Lezoka defrauded Parc Safari with the help of church member Ruth Eugene, 38, who worked as the zoo’s accountant for several years. Also charged is Eugene’s husband Jasmin St-Louis, 43.

That just floors me. Not the thievery itself – that almost seems par for the course, actually. I’m appalled by their decision to target a zoo, though. It sounds like the zoo won’t suffer much for the loss of all that cash but it still seems like a lot of money to me. I wonder what they would have used it for.

Quebec business records list Mwinda Lezoka as president of the company, Actions Bethel du Canada Inc. Parc Safari had earlier filed a civil lawsuit against the pastor and his church, saying the money that vanished from their accounts was used to fund church activities. The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Apparently he’s already been in hot water over missing donations, too. Parishioners have yet to see any proof that their contributions went toward repairs.

I wonder how those involved wind up justifying this behaviour.


The only way to deliver people from evil is to eradicate it

October 17, 2010

I quote the advertising by a local church that I spotted on a walk this afternoon:

Whatever battles you face prayer should be your weapon of choice

It felt like quite the irony after the documentary I watched with the Saskatoon Freethinkers today. It was called Deliver Us From Evil, which you can watch here. Prayer is the last thing that would help here.

Filmmaker Amy Berg recounts a harrowing story of child abuse and how a serial child molester went free for the better part of two decades in this documentary. Oliver O’Grady was a Catholic priest who served in a number of parishes in Southern California during the 1970s and ’80s. O’Grady was also a habitual child molester who abused dozens of youngsters who were entrusted to his care, and while his superiors in the church were aware of O’Grady’s crimes as early as 1973, they opted to simply move him from one congregation to another rather than turn him in to authorities or strip him of his ordination.

It was mentioned by more than a few members after the film just how sinister O’Grady comes across as a person who has very little remorse over his crimes. (A fan of the film at IMDB likens him to Hannibal Lecter.) He admits to some wrongdoing during the court proceedings that are included in the film and admitted he’d been abused as a child by his siblings and priests at one point – not like those events should make us excuse his behaviour, of course. O’Grady was asked at his trial if he ever experienced any dissociative states and agreed he might have. He also seemed to have a different definition for what should count as assault and molestation.

Once out of prison in the States (where he only served half his sentence, I think) and allowed to roam free untethered in Ireland, he’s on camera in the film writing letters to his victims, thinking they might want to come hang out with him and have them explain in their own words what he did. “I wouldn’t expect a hug, but maybe a handshake,” he says with a wink. Yikes.

Someone else in the film mentions that seminaries often get boys as young as 14 years old taking courses there and how they wind up brainwashed by all the “sex is sin” stuff at such a hormonal age. He then wondered how much of that stifled natural sexuality plays into the perverse sex acts these predators force their victims into. Like they’re stunted mentally by their complete and total lack of sex education. It also got mentioned that in a world where all sex is bad, are those people really going to consider pedophilia worse than sex with a willing adult man or woman?

While most of the film focused on the story of O’Grady, I was more interested in the end part where they talked more about the widespread campaign by the Catholic church to hide this shit. They moved O’Grady four times before one more complaint to police finally got the legal ball rolling. I can’t recall how many kids they think he assaulted but the youngest was 9 months old. Fathom that, if you can.

It’s not just the fact that he is what he is, it’s the complicit nature of the Church that’s the problem here and the sheer number of priests they know are abusers but are still allowed to work in parishes filled with children.

Mojoey over at Deep Thoughts has made a very depressing “hobby” out of documenting as many cases of this as he can find.

We’re debating a public showing of this documentary at some point, mostly just to raise awareness of the issue at stake here – the safety of children. If Roman Catholics are raised from early childhood to think of their parish priest as a mere step away from God, and, in fact, God’s rep on earth during the Eucharist ceremony, and has so much power over his flock in terms of whether or not they’ll even be allowed to have the Eucharist.. to see so many willing to abuse the trust their parishioners automatically bestow on them.. why aren’t more Catholics up in arms about that? How can they sit idle and silent?

How can anyone?


Controversial ice cream? Nun of that, thanks…

September 24, 2010

I’ve been meaning to mention this ad from the UK for Antonio Federici’s ice cream. What were they thinking?

What were they thinking was going to happen? Of course this was going to drive the Catholics insane. Of course it was going to be phenomenal press coverage for an ice cream company I haven’t even heard of but now crave like I’m preggers.

The company said the idea of “conception” represented the development of their ice-cream. The use of religious imagery was in part because of the company’s commitment to ice-cream and in part “to comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues”.

However, the ASA said the use of a pregnant nun and the reference to immaculate conception was “likely to be seen as a distortion and mockery of the beliefs of Roman Catholics”.

What they should have had for a tagline instead of “Immaculate Conception” was something daft like “She’s not pregnant, she just loves our Chocolate Swirl ice cream!”

Actually, that wouldn’t help them sell ice cream as much as this controversy will. People wouldn’t want to associate that rich deliciousness with the extra pounds they’ll put on if they over do it.

“We concluded that to use such an image in a light hearted way to advertise ice-cream was likely to cause serious offence to readers, particularly those who practised the Roman Catholic faith,” the ASA added, banning the ad from appearing again.

The ad is the latest in the company’s “Ice-cream is our religion” campaign.

Making ice cream into a religion is a stupid campaign idea. It wouldn’t matter what kind of advertising technique they’d try in order to sell that image, it’d wind up offending somebody’s idea of a properly held traditional superstitious belief system. And once enough people feel offended or hurt by the imagery, everyone has hear them bellyache over it and then we all suffer needlessly.

Isn’t it worth asking why an ice cream company thinks it’s up to them to “comment on and question, using satire and gentle humour, the relevance and hypocrisy of religion and the attitudes of the church to social issues” in the first place? I’d think all they really are required to do is make ice cream and sell as much of it to hungry sugar addicts as they possibly can. Their job is not to mock what might have been a sizable portion of their profit base. Their logic does not resemble earth logic.

I’m not saying companies can’t take a stand on an issue, but in the middle of a marketing campaign? I suppose there are ways it can be done productively that won’t lose them any customers but by and large I think they mishandled this one.

I think they should be allowed to mock the fact that people will follow and obsess over anything if they love it enough, but this wasn’t the best way to bring attention to that aspect of humanity. Not by a long shot.

And did anyone think to ask what the hell kind of bastard creature an ice cream god would plant in a woman anyway? Nothing I’d be wanting to squeeze out nine months later, that’s for damn sure…seems like a great idea for some off-kilter horror story, though.


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