Corporation sued over questioning Christianity

June 18, 2012

I think I’ve created a misleading headline but here’s the story. Edward Wolfe applied for a job with the Voss Lighting Company of Lincoln, Nebraska and sailed through the first interview. On the second, he claims, is where he ran into trouble. The interviewer insisted on knowing what churches Wolfe had attended and when and where he was saved.

In the interview, Wolfe claims he was told most employees at Voss were Southern Baptist, but employees could go to any church, as long as they were “born again.”

The complaint claims the manager asked Wolfe if he would “have a problem” coming to work early, without pay, to attend Bible study.

Wolfe, a single parent who says he cannot attend church on Sundays, told lawyers the branch manager was “agitated” at his answers.

He didn’t get the job.

The suit is filed under Title VII, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion.

The company, though, claims he was passed over because someone more technically qualified applied also.

Hopefully it’ll occur to me to check for an update to this one. I can’t imagine applying for a job where those kinds of questions would be asked anyway. Crazy, if you ask me.


Christian “The Devil will get you!” doctor given warning

June 15, 2012

The image offered by the Telegraph makes Dr Richard Scott look a bit demonic himself, but anyway. The story is this:

The GP, who has worked as a missionary doctor in India and Tanzania, claimed that, after the usual medical consultation, he made a “gentle offer” to the patient to broach the subject of faith and was told “go for it”.

But in an 11-page finding, the GMC committee ruled that the GP had told the patient he was not going to offer him any medical help, tests or advice and stated if he did not “turn towards Jesus then he would suffer for the rest of his life”.

The committee also found that the GP had said no other religion in the world could offer him what Jesus could and he had used the phrase, or something similar to “the Devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering”.

The General Medical Council is not against religion, they claim, but their rules clearly stipulate that doctors “must not impose your beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views” and will take action in cases where patients say such a thing has gone on.

After the hearing, Dr Scott said he remained unbowed and the ruling would not stop him using his faith in work.
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“I will continue to raise the issue of faith, in particular Christianity, where relevant in consultations in the future, because it is for the patient’s benefit.”

In his eyes, at least. I’d rather not be under a doctor who thinks it’s also his or her duty to play minister to my so-called soul. I think most patients just want to get well and will take a pill or surgery if either will get them to that goal. I know studies seem to indicate that faith and belief can assist in healing but so do placebos, pets, and compassionate caregivers. I’d take any of those over a prayer service, thank you very much, and I know I’m not the only one.


Black Jesus cartoon too discriminatory

June 8, 2012

Poke fun at Christian beliefs all you want, but cut the racism. That’s what I say.

Times Live reports on a short cartoon that featured a black Jesus:

The two-minute animation, created by Johannesburg company Mdu Comics, depicts a “black Jesus” attempting to commit suicide after his doctor “diagnoses” him as a Shangaan.

In the clip, which has had 49000 hits on YouTube, “Jesus”, who speaks Zulu, consults a doctor after breaking his toe. After a DNA test, the doctor says: “Jesus, there is no easy way of telling you this … You are Shangaan.”

The character then scrubs himself with bags of oranges to rid himself of his “shangaan-ness” before leaving a suicide note.

Shangaan part of an ethnic group in South Africa, the Tsonga people.

According to the Tsonga, there exists a strong relationship between the creation (ntumbuloko) and a supernatural power called Tilo. Tilo refers to a vaguely described superior being, who created mankind, but it also refers to the heavens, being the home of this creature.

The Tsonga believed that man had a physical (mmiri) and a spiritual body with two added attributes, the moya and the ndzuti. The moya is associated with the spirit, enters the body at birth, and leaves at death to join the ancestors.

The ndzuti was associated with the person’s shadow and reflected human characteristics. At death, in the spirit world, it left the body. This meant that the spirit was attached with the individual and human characteristics of that person. Inherent in this concept is not only the belief in life after death but also that the dead retain very strong links with the living. Passing over into the spirit world is an important stage in the life of a Tsonga.

The country is rife with racist notions of certain tribes being better than others and the woman who initially lodged the complaint has heard many a slur against her Shangaan roots. Caroline Sithole thought this particular cartoon was worth taking to the Human Rights Commission after an acquaintance sent her to look at it.

“The [animation] came from a colleague and friend who said: ‘I am happy you will be Zulu soon’, referring to the fact that I will be getting married to a Zulu man.

“Well, it is sad that in this democratic South Africa you still have people who really believe Zulus or other tribes are more superior than Shangaans and that Shangaans are non-human or sub-human,” Sithole wrote in her complaint.

She said the animation carried many upsetting stereotypes.

“No wonder my son refuses to be Shangaan. I grew up being ridiculed by schoolmates for being Shangaan and I was not sure where this hatred was coming from.

Nowhere logical or scientifically factual, I’m sure.

Mdu Comics founder Mdu Ntuli denied the cartoon was offensive.

“It is purely fictional . Every nationality has a joke on each other and that’s just how it is. For me, it is just ridiculous for any Tsonga person to take this personally,” Ntuli said.

“Just how it is” is just what the problem is. So long as people refuse to see the problem with that kind of attitude, the longer the attitude will persist.


Linkskrieg! (First pass)

June 7, 2012

It’s occurred to me that I’ve collected far more links than I have time to write about, so here’s a batch of things I did want to bring up at some point but never did. I may flesh out some of these at some point, though. Time will tell.

1. The Codex Gigas:

Lore behind the codex suggests the book was the effort of one monk’s labor in a single night. After breaking the rules of the monastery, he’d been sentenced to a slow death – he’d be walled up in a room of bricks. The night before his sentence would be executed, the monk decided to write his last work, an evil book written on animal skins. He realized that finishing the book before imprisonment would be impossible, so he made a Faustian deal at midnight with Lucifer to finish the book, with the devil signing the document by painting a portrait of himself on the 290th leaf.

2. A pastor’s controversial book on sex:

The book was written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace, to, in Mark’s words, “compel married couples to have important conversations about important things.”

In the first half of the book, the Driscolls discuss their own sexual issues using the lessons they learned to discuss how to reignite a marriage whose flame may have gone out. The book’s second half, which is getting most of the negative attention, discusses sex in detail.

In response, religious scholars and writers have blasted the Driscolls’ work on a number of grounds ranging from the logistical to the biblical.

3. Apocalypse tourism:

The Mexican government is expecting 52 million tourists to visit the five regions — Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche, over the next 12 months, says the Latin American Herald Tribune.

According to goverment reports, the boom is part of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s tourism campaign: “Mundo Maya 2012,” to promote Mexico as a unique destination.

4. Ancient document claims dozens visited Jesus, not just three:

The translation of the mysterious ‘Revelation of the Magi’ describes how the three wise men actually numbered over a dozen and came from a faraway land, possibly China.

(Since the bible never specifies how many wise men visited, I don’t see this as news, personally. Straight Dope dealt with this years ago.)

5. “Miracle” survival of a kid with flesh eating disease:

The pope on Monday signed a decree authenticating the miracle, clearing the way for Tekakwitha to be canonized as America’s first Roman Catholic indigenous saint.

“There is no doubt in me or my husband’s mind that a miracle definitely took place,” Jake’s mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told msnbc.com on Tuesday. “There were far too many things that could have and should have gone wrong with his illness. The doctors went through every avenue they could to save his life and he survived. It’s a miracle that all of the other things that could have gone wrong, didn’t.”

6. Utah’s festive season vs atheist billboards:

“We’re glad to share the Christmas season with Christians, but they have stolen Christmas, and it is not the birthday of Jesus,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Wisconsin-based organization. “It’s a natural event, the winter solstice. … The shortest day of the year has been celebrated for millennia in the Northern Hemisphere with decorations and lights and celebrations. We just think it’s important to celebrate reason and celebrate reality.”

She added that the foundation has heard there’s a feeling of claustrophobia among non-Mormons and nonbelievers in Salt Lake City. “There’s a great dominance there, so we want to be there, too.”

7. Evidence from Dead Sea dirt may verify some bible tales:

Ben-Avraham, head of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University in Israel, noted that this is important because, when it comes to earthquakes, the last century in the Middle East was unusually quiet.

“People don’t take this into consideration,” Ben-Avraham said, “but we have mighty earthquakes.”

Looking farther back, one of the seismically active eras revealed by the core samples appears to have been about 4,000 years ago, he said.

“If you believe the biblical chronology, this is roughly [the time of] Sodom and Gomorrah,” he said. During this period, according to the Book of Genesis, God “rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed all.”

8. British PM and Dawkins disagree on need for faith schools:

David Cameron has said atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins “just doesn’t really get it” on the issue of faith schools.

The Prime Minister made the comments as he answered questions from well-known figures for a Guardian newspaper article. Mr Cameron said he thinks faith schools are “very often good schools” and he noted that the church had provided “good schools long before the state got involved”.

Dawkins would rather see more schools promoting secularism and critical thinking instead of traditions and indoctrination.


Old news: Cross purposes

May 17, 2012

A couple stories I’ll throw in; one from the start of 2012 when I wasn’t in the mood to blog and one from September 2010 when I would have blogged about it had I seen it. Oldest first: Mount Lebanon village erects giant cross as sign of unity

In the mountainous village of Qanat Bekish, a giant cross soaring over 73 meters in the air was constructed and lit up as a sign of unity among the world’s people.

I fail to see how a cross can be a sign of unity for Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, atheists and any other group that wouldn’t fall under the Christian umbrella. But maybe those people don’t really count…

The edifice was inaugurated by the Maronite Christian Church and was lit up with 1,800 spotlights, according to Father Farid Doumit, a Maronite priest in Qanat Bekish. The inauguration came on the eve of the Feast of the Holy Cross, a celebration which commemorates finding the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.

The cross was found? How come I didn’t know about that? When did that happen? States Wikipedia,

According to legends that spread widely throughout Western Europe, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Saint Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. The church was dedicated nine years later, with a portion of the cross[2] placed inside it. Other legends explain that in 614, that portion of the cross was carried away from the church by the Persians, and remained missing until it was recaptured by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius in 628. Initially taken to Constantinople, the cross was returned to the church the following year.

French Catholic groups and locals donated a total of $1.5 million to make the cross a reality.


(via)

What a waste of money in my opinion. They could have gotten the same amount of pipe from Home Depot a lot cheaper than that, even including shipping costs.

In northern Lebanon, a Mass was held in Koura at the Saydit Bkifteen monastery. Archimandrite Issac Khoury presided over the ceremony and stressed the importance the cross had for Christians.

And what do the Muslims who share Lebanon think about this so-called unity cross? The article doesn’t say.

Onto the second. I discovered the link I’d saved died but the story was out of Mt. Juliet in Tennessee where the mayor there was hoping to erect a giant cross to honour God and country. While looking for a copy of the story elsewhere, I found the Storify rundown of tweets about the news.

The mayor of Mt. Juliet said he wants to see a megachurch build near I-40 and erect a Christian cross to complement a nearby flag. The idea was met with applause when he floated it to the local chamber of commerce but has been derided by sites like Fark.com.

Fark is probably where I found out about it. PZ Myers got his followers to crash a poll the Tennessean paper had posted about it but that link is also dead. The question was, “Should a mayor incorporate his or her faith into plans for a city?” The only real answer should be no, rendering the need to poll somewhat moot. Alas, if PZ had to get involved, responses must have been going in the opposite direction.

The site also notes the existence of a “15-foot cross along Interstate 40″ already, erected by Cookville, a town 30 miles east. The mayor wants to keep up with the Joneses, I guess. Maybe he thinks it’d boost tourism, like those who erected a 33 foot tall Jesus in Swiebodzin, Poland:

Some locals think the statue will bring more visitors to the area, which others think is a waste of money.

“I don’t understand. With all this money, we would have done better to build an elementary school,” said Jarek, 41, from a nearby village.

A source close to the project said it had cost around a million euros (£870,000).

But, no money goes to waste if it’s a statue of Jesus or his torture implement. Never mind what kind of social programs could have gotten a boost from that kind of money, throw it all toward a giant erection instead…


I get a kick out of church sign advice

May 15, 2012

Pithy, no? It’s off a local church sign I drive by once in a while.

I gather it’s a dig at the “no atheists in foxholes” kind of mentality, that notion that people are prone to calling on a higher power only when they’re in the tightest of jams instead of going through life “knowing” they’re covered by God’s security blanket from birth to death.

This analogy is flawed, though.

Unless God is like Google’s driverless car, people still have to do all the steering for themselves. People still exert some control over where they go in life and how they’ll get there.

Plus, a spare tire is a guarantee against the unanticipated. Like the ubiquitous nail in a parking lot, maybe, the random “accident” that would not have happened had one steered a bit more to the left, or parked elsewhere. A spare tire might be looked at by some as a “god send” since it means it’s possible to get the car to a nearby garage instead of paying for expensive towing.

Am I being too literal? Probably. It’s what I do.


Prom season is open season on gay relationships

May 14, 2012

A Catholic school in Kentucky banned a lesbian couple from attending theirs. The trouble is, Hope Decker and Tiffany Wright found out they couldn’t go as a couple when they arrived at the gym on Saturday night and were immediately turned away. No warnings ahead of time. Just found out on the day.

“I would understand and respect the school’s decision if they truly upheld church teachings,” Wright said Sunday night. “They didn’t forbid the entrance of all the couples who’ve had premarital sex and all the kids who planned to get drunk after the prom.”

Sounds like hypocrisy in action. I’d say they truly are upholding church teachings… The kids opted to party in the parking lot after that.

Wright said the couple’s parking-lot prom was great.

“We had a wonderful night, and we were surrounded by true friends,” Wright said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

Among the other students outside with them were Lexington Catholic senior Suzie Napier, who said she wrote a letter to school administrators expressing displeasure at their decision. Napier said 107 fellow students signed it.

Puts me in mind of anther school a couple years ago in Mississippi that actually cancelled their prom to stop lesbians from dancing together. The school got a hell of a lot of bad press and the girls got a hell of a lot of support from many circles.

Napier said the students played music from their parked cars at the outside prom and set up a table for refreshments.

“I definitely think this prom will be much more memorable than any prom the school hosted,” Napier said.

Megan Carter-Stone, a senior, also attended the outside prom.

“It was a wonderful time, and I think we got our point across,” Carter-Stone said. “At least I hope we did.”

It’s good that these girls and their friends made the best of a stupid situation and hosted their own party instead of let the school officials ruin a night that’s supposed to be memorable for better reasons.

If the school had always planned on keeping them out of the gym, they should have been told sooner. It was mean spirited to let them think they could come to prom and then leave them out of it entirely. Would Jesus treat people like that? If he really was the caring equalizer Christians want to claim he was, then the only obvious answer is no. Decker graduates this year but Wright still has a couple years left at this school. How’s she going to be treated after this? Catholics praise their martyrs for standing up for what they believed in in the face of adversity. Will they praise her, too, or make the rest of her time there a living hell?


Not old news: old Billy Graham advice column

May 11, 2012

I look up Billy Graham’s advice once in a while and I liked the question posed on March 15th, 2012. High time I do a write-up about it.

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I’ve had a lot of emotional problems, and recently I started going to a psychologist someone recommended. I like her, but she’s very opposed to religion and thinks people must solve their own problems instead of turning to God for help. My faith is very important to me, so should I look elsewhere? — M.F.

People should be trying to find solutions to their problems and a psychologist can be a good start. It’s certainly better than diving into an Eckhart Tolle/Deepak Chopra style “self-help” guide, although nowhere near as cheap. If M.F. is going through depression or anxiety issues or OCD or whatever might be the issue, he or she should pursue the help of professionals in that particular field. If the issue is that this psychologist is not also an armchair theologian, why not ask to be referred to someone who will include the spiritual approach? At least s/he would still get the benefit of educated training. Graham agrees with me, but:

This person has already let you know that she has no sympathy for people who look to God for help, and almost inevitably she will try to impose her views on you.

That is not the role of a psychologist.

Psychologists help individuals focus on what is causing the symptoms to manifest or intensify. Once the source of the condition is identified, psychologists work with patients to develop coping skills. Psychologists provide a safe environment to express one’s feelings.

If she’s being professional, she won’t push her own beliefs (or lack of) onto the patient. If this patient wants God to be a part of the process, she’ll have to work it in. I’m assuming this isn’t a situation where a cult member needs to be deprogrammed. If she’s unable or unwilling to use God as part of the therapy process then she should be the one referring this person to someone else. Yes? Maybe someone who knows more about this can pipe up in the comments.

Back to Billy.

But God loves you and wants to help you deal with these problems. One way he may do this is by leading you to someone who has the training to understand your problems — but who also shares your faith. After all, God knows all about you; he understands what you’re going through, and he also knows the reasons for it. More than that, he knows the answer to your problems. The Bible says, “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13).

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it amusing that people decide to fix something about themselves, be it their health or their outlook on life or what have you, and when they succeed they refuse to take the credit for the hard work and give it all to their God instead. God’s the reason I lost 20 pounds. God’s the reason I reunited with my estranged father. God’s the reason. God’s the reason. What can’t one’s own desire and determination be the reason? There’s no need to go overboard with the pride or arrogance or anything, but isn’t it something of a confidence booster to realize that you’re capable of solving your own problems? Be the success story. “I went through this and I made it through. It was tough and it was shitty and more than once I wanted to (insert quitter talk here) but I persevered and now I’m better…”

Thank God?

Why?

There can be enough strength in the self. Often there is enough strength in the self, but people aren’t always willing to put faith in that and instead put it into some external, invisible, ephemeral source and think that when they succeed, that’s the root cause. Everyday people behave like Dumbo did toward his “magical” feather. At least Dumbo saw the error of his ways eventually…


Old news: faith healing event ends in tragedy, death

May 11, 2012

It wasn’t directly the fault of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of Nigeria, but he was the person 150,000 people had traveled to see in Cape Town back in March. He has a reputation as a miraculous faith healer so people who should be going to doctors – or have but don’t like their diagnoses or prognoses – are putting their faith in his ability to heal. One man in the audience during the three day Pentecostal show died, another pastor by the name of Simon Williams. The fifty-six year old

was taken from hospital intensive care to the event by his family. He collapsed and died from renal failure inside the stadium.

Dr Wayne Smith, head of disaster medicine for Cape Town, said he treated about 30 patients in the stadium’s medical centre and sent 16 to hospital.

“Some of them had travelled long distances to get there, they had ongoing medical issues and were in a lot of pain,” he said.

Pastor Chris has a few black marks on him already. In 2008, he was accused of protecting another pastor from his church who might have murdered a girl. He’s been suspected of money laundering to the tune of 35 million dollars and charges exorbitant attendance fees for special events at his Christ Embassy church. He, along with a lot of other evangelicals in the country, preach the prosperity gospel, and the poor are giving him upwards of 30% of their available money in the hopes that God will turn things around for them. Of course, the truth is that only Christ Embassy and the pastors in it get to prosper and enjoy a windfall.

So, back to this faith healing business. It’s understandable why people with little hope of improvement (in health or finances) would try something like this but this shit doesn’t work. James Randi helped expose Peter Popoff as a fraud back in 1987 but he’s still kicking around and still fleecing otherwise intelligent people on a weekly basis. “Desperation changes the balance.”

If you would tell them not to give their money to Peter Popoff, what would you tell them to do instead? Would they be better off giving that $100 to the bank that’s about to foreclose on their house anyway, or to the landlord about to evict them? If we have no alternative solution to offer, then our best arguments may boil down to this: false hope is expensive, and hopelessness is free. That’s not a strong selling point.

People need hope. We have a powerful need to feel like we have some control over our fate, even if it is an illusion. That’s why those with the most serious illnesses spend the most money on quack therapies. And it’s why we can’t save desperate people from the likes of Peter Popoff through debunking alone—we need to offer a positive alternative that meets their needs.

When people really don’t know which way to turn, any wrong direction can feel like the right one. Maybe it seems like there isn’t time to look into alternatives, or it doesn’t occur to them to look for different kind of aid or support, or they think there won’t be anything even remotely close to what they need, save a miracle. I don’t know. I just hope that if I’m ever in dire straits I’ll look for real help rather than put faith in something ultimately useless.


Pride week is not far away

May 7, 2012

But I found this now and don’t want to forget to post it. I found out about it via recordnet.com and their article about North Carolina’s gay marriage issue.

One hopes that plea is heeded. Vines’ speech is long – a little over an hour – but well worth the time, particularly for those seeking to reconcile first-century faith with 21st-century social concerns.

Many in North Carolina – many around the country – are swimming against the tide of human freedom and blaming God for it. Again, this is not a new thing. We saw it back when God was for segregation and against women’s suffrage.

How convenient it must be to lay your own narrowness and smallness off on God, to accept no responsibility for the niggardly nature of your own soul. Vines’ video is a welcome, overdue and eloquent rebuke of the moral and intellectual laziness of throwing rocks, then hiding inside Scripture. It is a reminder, too.


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