Saturday snicker: “Pardon me, demon. I have to take this phone call..”

August 16, 2014

Ah, haha.. An exorcist has just begun his attempt to cure this man of whatever demon ails him when the phone rings…

The accent is hard to for me to understand and also the sound quality is cell phone poor so all I can hear is, “I’m fine… I’ll call you… bye bye…” before he hangs up and we see he’s willing to start flailing around again and continue the “exorcism”. Clearly the exorcist is kind of pissed at the interruption, though, and I can’t make out what he says to the man once the call finishes. Certainly nothing went as expected there.

(h/t: liberalamerica.org)

This happened to be a funny exorcism attempt and makes me wonder if either of the people involved actually believe in possession. Is the guy in the suit a charlatan? Maybe deliberately, maybe ignorantly – at least in terms of thinking these kinds of methods release anyone from anything besides their money. The flailing victim seems totally ordinary once his phone rings, like he was willing to be in on the act and pretend something was happening just so the suit guy wouldn’t feel silly acting alone up there. Again, who knows.

Unfortunately, they aren’t always a show on a stage.

On Christmas Day 2010, a fifteen year old boy named Kristy Bamu died in a bathtub after three days of being attacked and tortured by his older sister, Magalie, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi, during some kind of exorcism attempt.

During the trial, jurors heard Kristy was in such pain after three days of attacks by Bikubi and Bamu, who used knives, sticks, metal bars and a hammer and chisel, that he “begged to die”, before slipping under the water.

Kristy had been killed while he and his siblings were visiting Bikubi and Bamu for Christmas, the court was told.

During the stay, Bikubi turned on them, accusing them of bringing “kindoki” – or witchcraft – into his home.

He then beat all three of them and forced other children to join in with the attacks, the jury heard.

Kristy got the worst of it, though, tortured and ultimately forced to confess to sorcery and witchcraft.

Magalie later tried to claim she was also a victim in this but nobody bought it. Others testified with enough detail to poke holes in her story. Bikubi’s defense tried to lower his sentence by stating he was mentally ill due to lesions on his brain (scans seemed to suggest that) but that plea failed.

Met Det Supt Terry Sharpe said: “Child abuse in any form, including that based on a belief in witchcraft or spirit possession, is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faith, and is never acceptable in any circumstances.”

Kristy’s family said they hoped comfort could be drawn from his death through raising awareness “of the plight of children accused of witchcraft or spirit possession and promote the need to safeguard children’s rights”.

The couple was original from the Democratic Republic of Congo. A documentary put out by BBC3 in 2013 covered the prevalence of child witchcraft accusations there. At the time of filming, 50,000 children had been accused of witchcraft in the country. If you can find Branded a Witch anywhere, it might be worth a watch. If not, look around Youtube.

I’m not snickering anymore…


“Pope was misquoted” — yeah, and I’m sure Jesus was, too

July 14, 2014

Well, if there was a Jesus. There really is a Pope, though, and Francis made some comments about pedophilia on the weekend to a journalist but the Vatican PR department has since done a bit of quick foot backpeddling to wave away was it was he was quoted as saying — that 2% of priests are pedophiles.

2% maybe doesn’t sound like a lot but the article breaks it down in a way that’ll help visualize it: 1 in 50. That’s a lot.

“This data should hearten me but I have to tell you that it does not hearten me at all. In fact, I think that it is very grave,” he was quoted as saying. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that not all the phrases could be attributed “with certainty” to the pope.

“… it does not hearten me…”

I would hope not.

Part of me feels bad for the guy because he’s inherited a whole kettle of stinky fish. He seems nice from what I’ve seen of him. But admitting to the fact that there are pedophiles isn’t going to be enough here. He has to commit to actions that will stop them, not do like his predecessors and continue to endorse secrecy or plans to move them around to new parishes and new victims.

If prayer hasn’t “fixed” this problem yet, maybe they ought to try something else.


Nate Phelps gave an interesting talk last night

June 15, 2012

He gave the audience a run down of his upbringing under the demanding and watchful eyes of Fred Phelps, creator of the Westboro Baptist Church. He described some of the abuse he and his mother and siblings went through when he was growing up and how the ludicrous theology they lived under could continue to be maintained, and is still maintained now – clever reinterpretation of the King James bible to create “the world” and “the saved” as only the people of Phelps’ flock. God’s love is extended only to those chosen few, as is salvation. They have no desire to convert or change anyone (beyond the ones who might dare marry into the family); they just want to advertise the fact that everyone who isn’t them will be automatically destined for hell upon death. And, for some reason known only to the senior Phelps, it became important to focus the bulk of that attention on the gays and their supporters rather than picket adulterers or murderers or others who’d break the rest of the commandments without much thought.

I didn’t attend the pub chat afterwards and won’t be at the lunch today, either, but it was worth going to see. He’s an example of someone who grew up in an incredibly strict and fundamentalist regime and found himself unable to continue in it. Fred Phelps teaches that reason and rationality are the Devil’s tricks, messing with a faithful mind by making it want to question instead of believe blindly. Much of the family is still living under that perception but Nate couldn’t quell the doubts, and that’s part of why he left. He told us a story about how his kids were asking about heaven once and where people who don’t get to go to heaven go. He had to explain what hell was and what eternity was and all the kids started crying. “I want to believe in god! I don’t want to go to hell!” He recalled his own reactions to these “facts” as a child and then and there vowed to be a different kind of dad. Now he considers himself an atheist and refuses to indoctrinate his own children. If they want to buy into a religion later in life, they can choose for themselves, he said. He’d rather teach them the skills to think critically and question what they hear and read. The more they question and seek factual answers, the better off they’ll be down the road.

Younger members of the church have started to drift away, too, and Nate offers himself up as a mentor if any of them should want to seek him out, but he knows they’ll be in weird places mentally for a while, just like he was. It won’t help to tell them how badly screwed up they are after years under the church’s influence. They’ll hopefully figure that out for themselves and start making headway on fixing it.

Here’s hoping.


Linkskrieg! (Second pass)

June 11, 2012

More things I never made time to write about.

1. “Unnecessary conflict” between science and evangelicalism:

This is not to say that I want to reject reason or science – quite the contrary! My point here is that understanding distinction between these truths of mythos and logos points the way towards realizing the compatibility of scientific and religious thought. We need them both. They don’t have to be enemies, as they represent different aspects of the human search for truth.

2. Live Science’s article on the extremes between the religious and the atheist:

Psychologists, sociologists and neurologists continue to study why some gobble up religion as profound truth while others reject it as superstition.

“This whole area [of research] teaches us something about the human mind and brain,” said Andrew Newberg, director of research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and author of “How God Changes Your Brain” (Ballantine Books, 2009).

“There are a lot of philosophical and theological implications of this work and about how we understand the world,” Newberg added.

3. More about earthquakes and the Dead Sea’s “proof” that Jesus died on Friday April 3rd, 33AD:

In terms of the earthquake data alone, Williams and his team acknowledge that the seismic activity associated with the crucifixion could refer to “an earthquake that occurred sometime before or after the crucifixion and was in effect ‘borrowed’ by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, and a local earthquake between 26 and 36 A.D. that was sufficiently energetic to deform the sediments of Ein Gedi but not energetic enough to produce a still extant and extra-biblical historical record.”

“If the last possibility is true, this would mean that the report of an earthquake in the Gospel of Matthew is a type of allegory,” they write.

(I’m always amused by people who turn to science in the hopes of proving their religious texts aren’t just a bunch of made up hooey.)

4. Japanese Jesus tomb a big tourist draw:

Some 500 tourists attended a festival Sunday in the village of Shingo, Aomori Prefecture, where women in kimono danced in a circle around a cross erected on a spot that locals believe is the tomb of Jesus Christ.

Village legend has it Jesus survived his crucifixion and secretly came to Japan and lived out his natural life and died in the village, which used to be called Herai, a word that apparently came from the word Hebrew.

5. Pastor accused of beating kids:

Officials say the boy told deputies that the day before, his mother took him and his brother to see the pastor after church to talk with him about their misbehavior during services at the church on Ames Blvd.

“They were misbehaving in church, and usually, according to the mom’s statements, she would let the pastor discipline the kids following church,” said sheriff’s office spokesman Glen Boyd.

Investigators say the 10-year-old told them it was during that session when Smith, a Gretna resident, beat them with a belt.

6. Do secular TV shows offer enough morality lessons for Christian kids?

here’s where I tend to differ from many Christian parents I know: I’m not protective because I fear the moral damage television might do to my children. I’m protective because I want my children to stay children and not have to watch people being killed or hurt or harassed. I don’t want them to see how awful people can be to each other—not yet. I’m protecting their outlook on humanity.

7. Pastor accused of swindling an elderly woman out of property worth a fortune:

Abakporo, who owns a home in the wealthy part of Jamaica Estates in Queens, N.Y., is also a pastor at Deeper Life Bible Church, investigators said.

Instead of turning the checks over to McCarther, who prosecutors say was in declining physical and mental health, they deposited the rental checks into their own bank accounts.

Federal prosecutors say Abakporo and Pierce further tangled McCarther in a “web of lies” and ultimately persuaded her to sell them her property for $3.1 million. But instead of giving her real money, they paid her in phony checks, prosecutors said.

8. A bill in California has been offered banning conversion therapy:

The bill would ban anyone under age 18 from receiving sexual-orientation change efforts (SOCE). It would also require adults seeking SOCE to first sign a statement warning that that SOCE is “unlikely to be effective,” could be harmful, and is not recommended by mental health professional groups.

Efforts to change sexual orientation are “junk science, and it must stop,” said Democratic state Sen. Ted W. Lieu, the bill’s author.


A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 3

May 15, 2012

I’m getting a kick out of doing this. Some of the questions out of this old Scruples game are a bit absurd and others leave too many options open for answers, but overall it’s getting interesting. Here are today’s ethical quandaries.

A friend asks you to join a demonstration for worldwide nuclear disarmament. You are busy. Do you go?

Where is it and how long does it run? If it’s at City Hall on a Sunday afternoon, I could probably swing it. Laundry could wait a few hours. If it would require weeks off work and cramped days sitting in a VW bus filled with angry sign waving hippies, I’d have to pass on it, no matter how much I might agree with them.

This isn’t news I stay abreast of, but I’ve found an opinion piece in the Toronto Star where the writer takes this position in terms of Iran.

Universal abolition of nuclear weapons is indeed a utopian ideal. As has been pointed out, it could not work in today’s international system of “a world divided into nations maintaining their full sovereignty.”

The authors of that comment were not utopians, though. They were the U.S. joint chiefs of staff. This was their judgment back in 1946, at the very dawn of the nuclear era.

Instead, we’ve gone the route of trying, by pressure and bribery, to limit nuclear weapons to respectable nations — or to weak ones (like Pakistan and North Korea). The consequence is an Iran within touching distance of gaining nuclear capability, and after it, almost anybody.

The alternative to that route would be, in essence, some form of global nuclear governance. Excruciatingly hard to accomplish, of course. But isn’t it time long overdue to have a serious discussion of that option?

And wasn’t that kind of initiative exactly the sort of thing that Canada, long ago it now seems, used to do and indeed was quite good at? Why not regain our voice?

We’ve seen the fall-out in terms of what happens in a nuclear event. Nagasaki and Hiroshima are testaments of that. No matter how bad one’s enemies are (or said to be), they’re still going to be surrounded by the innocent, those completely undeserving of the punishment. They didn’t necessarily choose their leaders and they don’t necessarily agree with them either. Those aren’t weapons anyone should use. They aren’t just enemy killers. They’re world killers.

Late one evening, your 19-year-old son asks permission for his girlfriend to stay over. Do you give it?

First, I’d be happy he asked. It shows respect for me and my house, which is cool, and if I said no, I think that means he’d abide by my decision instead of trying to sneak her in under the radar and risk disappointing me. (Or, he’s been sneaking her in for a while and finally feels some guilt about it…) While he’s nineteen and technically an adult, I’d rather know where he is and who he’s with than be up wondering why he isn’t home yet and what kind of trouble he might be getting into. If that means he has his girlfriend stay over once in a while, I think I’d probably be fine with it, so long as his girlfriend isn’t 17 or younger. I’d also be insisting on birth control, probably in some horribly embarrassing kind of way that only a parent can do.

You are a doctor. You have diagnosed a terminal illness. The family begs you to keep it from the patient. When the patient asks, do you tell him the truth?

If he asks, is it a safe bet that he probably already suspects that’s the case? I can’t see how lying to the guy would help the whole family cope with the news in the long run. I’d try to encourage them all to be open with each other and deal with the reality of the upcoming loss rather than pretend it’s not going to happen. They wouldn’t be giving their dad/grandfather/brother much credit. No doubt he’d notice a change in their behaviour towards him and know something was up. Also, how long does he have? If it’s a death that treatment could stave off for a few months, wouldn’t he want to know that option’s available sooner rather than later? At least give the whole family some time to consider the pros and cons of that.

Or, possibly the family just wants the news to come from loved ones instead of a complete stranger. Maybe they don’t intend to hide the truth from him at all, just choose the way they share it with him. In that case, I think I would have to respect their decision.

I leave the fourth open to readers:

The only available spot in the parking lot is reserved for the handicapped. You are in a hurry and won’t be very long. Do you park there?


Dad says Hell NO! to Jesus T-shirt

May 7, 2012

An update to the Nova Scotia story I hit on earlier this week:

A Nova Scotia student suspended from classes for five days for wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Life Is Wasted Without Jesus” returned to school today wearing the same garment, but he was quickly taken home by his father.

William Swinimer, who’s in Grade 12, was scheduled to attend a session for all students on how to express their beliefs in a way that is respectful to all.

But John Swinimer said he wants Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, Lunenburg County, to only teach the basic courses, leaving religion out of it.

John Swinimer said his son will not return to school until it gets back to teaching the basics. (CBC)”He will not attend this school unless they are having reading, writing and arithmetic — good old-fashioned academics,” he said, waving a New Testament bible. “When they’re having forums, when they’re having other extra-curricular activity, he will not attend that school.”

Hilarious. I assumed a kid like that had active church parents. Wouldn’t you?

Students said William Swinimer has been preaching and making them feel uncomfortable, and the shirt was the last straw so they complained.

“He’s told kids they’ll burn in hell if they don’t confess themselves to Jesus,” student Riley Gibb-Smith said.

Katelyn Hiltz, student council vice-president, agreed the controversy didn’t begin with the T-shirt.

“It started with him preaching his religion to kids and then telling them to go to hell. A lot of kids don’t want to deal with this anymore,” she said.

That’s not what school is for. Dad’s got it right. Stick to the stuff that really matters from an educational perspective and leave the religious nuttery for the hours outside school.


In terms of comparative religion, why not include paganism?

April 15, 2012

I watched The Wicker Man recently; the 1973 release, not the Nicholas Cage remake that’s only good to watch for a laugh. Mind you, as an atheist I found humour in the original where I’m sure none was intended at the time it was made. I caught myself sniggering as the righteous Christian Sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodward) gets more and more distressed at the education, habits and traditions of the people living on Summerisle. A very young Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle who explains to him how the paganist roots of the community got started. His grandfather had to engineer and modify the crops he brought to the island because they wouldn’t grow well in the soil otherwise. In order to make sure the locals had faith in his new apple trees etc., he had them pray to the Goddess of the Harvest and follow other ancient rites (a lot of which required naked women and outdoor orgies) and when they were rewarded with an excellent harvest, they were led to believe their new religion was the reason, thus encouraging them to keep it up year after year. But now it looks like the crops are starting to fail and Howie is easily led to believe that a young girl is going to be sacrificed on May Day to ensure a good crop next year. He realizes, a bit belatedly, that he’s a bit wrong about that…

But anyway, a friend of mine added a link to her Facebook page that I simply had to click on. It’s from the Daily Mail’s coverage of the news that Cornwall schools must add paganism into their religion courses, even down to the early childhood levels. Cornwall Council is clearly catering to a fringe movement in the area (the upper estimate puts 750 pagans in a population of 537,400 so .001 percent) but its inclusion gives it the practice a legitimacy that was otherwise lacking. This alarms the Christian campaigners who are against the move, of course. They’re claiming it’s a time issue, that the course can’t devote enough time to the majors let alone a fringe religion, thus it’s a waste of time including it.

‘Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children.’

Is it a fad to include Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, as well? Did anyone ever try to claim that those are only included because of political correctness instead of educational value? It’s too much of a straw man argument to extend this toward them wanting all Christianity all the time in that class and nothing else, but deep down it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the way a few of them think. It tops the list of commandments, doesn’t it? No other gods but me? (Commandments aimed very specifically at the Israelites and their YHWH, but neveryoumind…)

This, too, is something of a stretch, but I wonder if their attitude might have a bit to do with concerns over what might get taught in terms of how early Christians behaved toward pagans. They moved into the area and usurped a belief system that had flourished for hundreds of years and what beliefs they didn’t ban they stole and repurposed toward their own ends. Glory glory hallelujah.

Paganism is historically relevant in Cornwall so the fact that a minority of people have chosen to retain the traditions is a fact kids should be allowed to learn in school.

Neil Burden, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said that the move would give children ‘access to the broad spectrum of religious beliefs’.

The council said the teaching of Christianity still accounted for nearly two-thirds of religious education in its schools.

Clearly they don’t like things to be fair, with equal time devoted to all the religions included in the syllabus but maybe they’d make the argument that .001 percent worth of pagans suggests a mere .001 percent of class time should be given over to them. And I don’t think I’d disagree with using a rationing approach of some kind. If the intent is to expose students to all available religious lifestyles in their geographical area then it’s probably logical to spend more time on the ones they’re most likely to run into in their day to day lives and just touch on the others out there that aren’t so in-the-face all the time.

I wonder what their approach is in terms of validity of religions overall; if the teachers promote Christianity above all other faiths as if it’s the right and only one worth having, or if they teach this so kids will come away from the course understanding that every religion is essentially the same in terms of purpose; they all exist to impose some kind of order on an otherwise chaotic world.

Bottom line, I don’t see the harm in including paganism in this course. I don’t remember much about my school days but I know I learned nothing about whatever beliefs would have been held by the aboriginal population of my province before the Christians ran ripshod over their culture and decimated it. It would have been interesting but my religion class was aimed only at getting the kids ready to be proper Catholics, whatever the hell that might mean. I never had a religion class like this Cornwall one until I hit university and it was quite the eye opener, to say the least. It’s good that these kids don’t have to wait until university to get the same experience.


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