Atheist Scruples: Police! Police!

October 15, 2014

Today’s question:

Arriving home late, you see a flashlight in your house and call police. They take an hour to arrive and the thieves escape with your valuables. Do you complain to the civic authorities?

In the heat of the moment, I’d probably be totally pissed and want to, yeah, but I can’t imagine it would make much difference in terms of me getting my stuff back.

One thing to do would be to remain outside the house, let them do whatever print work they want to try in terms finding a match in case there are other houses that have been hit by the same person/group.

Preemptively, it’s worthwhile to have a stored record of serials numbers and photos of the stuff you own, stored somewhere online (or in a safety deposit box if you’re behind the times) so you can provide police with proof of ownership in case any of your stuff gets found again, and also in terms of putting together reports for insurance purposes. The Surrey RCMP offer up this advice and suggest engraving of marking your stuff with something like your driver’s license number or something else specific to your life.

Surrey RCMP’s exhibits area recorded over 1,800 cases of found property. As an example, over 20% of those cases involved recovered bicycles and less than half of those were returned to the original owners because there was no way to track them down. More recently, twelve bikes were brought into exhibits in one day and none had been reported stolen.

“We’ve recovered family heirlooms, diamond rings, unique artwork, you name it,” says Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet. “Our officers and support staff work very hard to try and reunite owners with their property, however it can be very difficult when there’s little to no documentation, or when people don’t report stolen property.”

“There is also a common misconception that it’s not worth it to report something stolen,” says Cpl. Paquet. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Reporting crime matters. When you report a theft, you are making us aware of stolen property and of crime that is happening in your community.”

Slightly related, I remember my days at Walmart dealing with folks who came in with their lists of stolen items they were trying to get replacements for. It wasn’t always possible to find the exact video game or piece of equipment they’d lost, unfortunately, but I’d do what I could and I always felt kind of bad for them.

Knocking on proverbial wood now because I’ve been very fortunate…


To serve and protect drivers from going to hell apparently…

October 6, 2014

I see this as an abuse of power, personally.

Ellen Bogan expects police to protect and serve — not proselytize.

But she says Indiana State Police Trooper Brian Hamilton pitched Christianity to her when he pulled her over for an alleged traffic violation in August on U.S. 27 in Union County.

With the lights on his marked police car still flashing, the trooper handed Bogan a warning ticket. Then, Bogan said, Hamilton posed some personal questions.

Did she have a home church?

Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?

“It’s completely out of line and it just — it took me aback,” Bogan, 60, told The Indianapolis Star.

Of course it’s out of line. Judge her all you want. Pray for her all you want, but don’t use your position as a police officer to stand there on the side of the road and start trying to convert her. Not content to just talk her ear off about Jesus, he gave her a pamphlet, too. Bogan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana have filed suit against the officer.

The pamphlet, which was included in the lawsuit, advertises a radio broadcast from “Trooper Dan Jones” called “Policing for Jesus Ministries.” It also outlines “God’s plan for salvation,” a four-point list that advises the reader to “realize you’re a sinner” and “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”

“I’m not affiliated with any church. I don’t go to church,” Bogan said. “I felt compelled to say I did, just because I had a state trooper standing at the passenger-side window. It was just weird.”

I’ll have to try to remember to look for updates on this one.


Guardian angels, road safety and risk taking: connected?

September 25, 2014

If the details reported by New York Magazine can be believed, then yes.

Interviews with 198 people showed that 45 percent believed in “a personal spirit or supernatural power” that watched over them. Further questions were designed to assess the participants’ attitudes toward risk-taking — for example, the question asking how risky the volunteers would rate driving 20 kilometers (12 miles) over the speed limit. Those who believed in guardian angels rated speeding as riskier than those who didn’t believe in the concept.

The study’s designer is David Etkin, “a professor of disaster management at York University” and was surprised by the findings. He thought he’d get an opposite response, that faith in guardian angels may result in people more willing to do the risky thing due to feeling protected by that higher power.

while this study didn’t test why the believers were more risk-averse, he has a theory. People who are more cautious also tend to be more fearful, and so he believes it makes sense that these are the types of people who want to believe in a spiritual safekeeper.

People, by and large, are terrible at assessing risk. The media helps to skew people’s perceptions of dangerous situations but we’d be doing it regardless of their influence. It’s in our nature.

Plus, if a religion puts a lot of stock in the power of fear – fear of eternal damnation, fear of god – then I can see why believers may be less likely to do the bold thing. Far safer to do the safe thing, from a day-to-day life perspective and an afterlife perspective. Speeding isn’t just dangerous as an activity; it’s against the law and breaking laws is sinful. Whose laws are they really afraid of breaking if they speed a little?

Thoughts?


Drunken man bathes in church’s holy water

September 24, 2014

And that’s not all:

A Stoney Creek man has been arrested on a series of charges after a drunken rampage through a downtown church – which allegedly included bathing in the holy water, vandalizing religious objects and trying to light a wine-soaked altar on fire, police say.

It happened on Saturday afternoon around 3:45 p.m. at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Park Street North. According to police, an intoxicated man and woman went into the church and once inside, started yelling and swearing.

The man went over to a large holy water bath and started washing himself, police say. Another woman who happened to be inside the church at the time saw what was going on told the man to leave and scolded him for disrespecting the church.

Which wasn’t enough to stop him, evidently.

When officers got there, the man was found shirtless on the ground outside wearing a rosary and “in an intoxicated state,” police say.

A 26-year-old man was arrested and charged with mischief under $5,000, arson and damage to property, two counts of failing to comply with his probation, theft under $5,000 and possession under $5,000.

People get a lot of strange ideas in their heads. I wonder if he was a regular church-goer there at some point, if there’s a history we don’t know for why he’d choose to misbehave in this particular church, or if he was just feeling disorderly and the church was a handy place to act out in.


South Carolina Pastor gets jail time for being too loud in church

September 16, 2014

Neighbours had complained repeatedly about Johnnie Clark and his “turn it up to 11″ approach to his church’s sound system, often running it at crazy volumes for evening services. The police had to go there dozens of times and the church has been fined several times. In June a judge granted them an injunction prohibiting loud services between 8pm and 8am which they refused to follow and now they’re reportedly shocked that a jury sentenced him to a couple weeks of jail time plus more fines. From WLTX:

“I can’t believe it, jail time, for serving God, what’s next,” said Pastor and First Lady Harriet Clark.

No no, honey. It’s not jail for serving god. It’s jail for being too fucking loud when you’ve already been told bunches of times to turn the sound down. Be nice to your neighbours and respect their right to a quiet night.

“They are trying to tell us how not to worship. We have church at 7:30, so what does that mean we only have 30 minutes to worship? ” Clark says.

At the “Pump up the volume!” level, yes. After eight, worship all you want, but at reduced volumes. I don’t see the problem here beyond outright stubbornness and a belief that you’re all above the rules. You have to abide by city rules too, not just the god rules you’ve cherry picked to follow. By this story, I guess “love thy neighbours” is one you’ve opted to ignore.

If you want more than a half hour of loud, have your service at 4pm or something. There’s nothing in the bible that states service must be at 7:30 or you all go to hell. Adjust your services so you can abide by the law. Stubbornness again.

Borders believes that their rights are being violated because they can’t praise God in their own way. He says the real problem is that the city noise ordinance isn’t specific.

This is not about the city’s general noise ordinance now. This is about the specific injunction you refused to follow.

“It’s up to the neighbors to say if its irritating to them or a nuisance to them. Well you can get a weed eater and go outside and if someone complains nothing will be done, but when it comes to worshiping God its now a problem,” said Borders.

Nobody in their right mind would hook a weed eater up to an advanced sound system and crank the volume for as long as one your services likely runs. If someone did that, you can be damned sure complaints would roll in and something would be done about it, pronto. Especially if the same thing happened night after night after night…

The church has owned the property for several years and thinks it’s not fair that they are being punished because of the close proximity to their neighbors.

Wah wah wah, we want special treatment! Sorry. You can’t have it. Rules are rules and you’ve been told repeatedly to be quiet after 8pm. Did you guys go deaf from all the loud music?

Also, did the neighbourhood pop up over night, or was the church property already surrounded by housing when you bought the land? Even if it’d been on the outskirts of town at purchase however many years ago, it’s part of the city now due to urban expansion and has to abide by city rules like everyone else in that neighbourhood.

You’re not like the alligator in Florida who used someone’s swimming pool because the swamp they used to hunt in got landscaped over when the city expanded. (The gator in the story was relocated to a special farm, not killed. That’s special treatment and deserved.)

The church admits they should have soundproofing but they’re complaining that it’s too expensive to overhaul the church. I wonder how much they paid to overhaul their entertainment system, myself. There was money galore for that, I’m guessing.

Maybe they should try a Kickstarter campaign or something. For all they know, their neighbours would be more than willing to throw a few hundred bucks their way in order to shut them up…


Oklahoma Pastafarian wears colander in official photo

September 16, 2014

For the truly dedicated like Shawna Hammond, the colander represents the freedom of religion.

I usually wind up finding British papers reporting on this type of story and the same is true here. The Mirror reports:

Atheist turned Pastafarian Shawna Hammond agreed to take off her glasses for the picture, but was adamant she should wear the kitchen utensil.

Oklahoma state rules say that religious headpieces are permitted providing they do not cause shadows and do not obstruct the view of the face.

Stunned driving office workers were left bemused and sent into hysterics by the choice of headwear and went on to question the unusual beliefs.

She told News Channel 4: “I asked if I could wear my religious headwear and he said, yes, it just couldn’t have any logos, or any type of writing. I told him it didn’t, and I went out to my car and got my colander.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has the final word on whether or not her license photo meets their critera in term of religious headgear. So wait and see if there’s an update to this story down the road.

At the end of the article they offer a poll:

pasta poll

At the time of posting:

pasta poll results

Talk about an unfun bunch of respondents. None was my pick, too, admittedly.

That said, these folks that fight for the right to wear pasta strainers on their heads do it to remind those in power (to whatever degree) that religion needs to be a choice. It’s not a life sentence with no chance of parole. There should always be the right to choose to opt out.


I wonder how effective “Don’t Say the Pledge” will be.

September 11, 2014

Being Canadian, I can’t quote any part of the Pledge of Allegiance without looking it up. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for the rundown of how many times the Pledge has changed over the years, and when.)

On Monday, Sept. 8th, the American Humanist Association started this movement to urge people to remain seated during the pledge as a means of protesting the inclusion of the words “under God,” which were added to the pledge in 1954. The Knights of Columbus (via the wiki page: “the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization”) came up with the idea to add it a few years earlier and the idea caught on like wildfire. They claim they got it from a line in the Gettysburg address but in 2004 a linguist named Geoffrey Nunberg suggests they did it wrong. Amusing if true.

The original supporters of the addition thought that they were simply quoting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. However, Nunberg said that to Lincoln and his contemporaries, “under God” meant “God willing” and they would have found its use in the Pledge of Allegiance ungrammatical.

Though not all manuscript versions of the Gettysburg Address contain the words “under God”, all the reporters’ transcripts of the speech as delivered do, as perhaps Lincoln may have deviated from his prepared text and inserted the phrase when he said “that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom.”

Onto the Don’t Say the Pledge website:

With “under God” added, the Pledge is not a statement of patriotism. Instead, extremist preachers and politicians point to the language to validate their view that those who don’t believe in God don’t belong.

Until the Pledge is restored to its inclusive version, we can take it upon ourselves to refuse to participate in what’s become a discriminatory exercise. (Note: A Supreme Court case – West Virginia vs. Barnette –gives public school students the absolute right to sit out the Pledge, for any reason. Public schools might not tell you about this right, but if anyone questions you about sitting out the Pledge, contact the AHA’s Legal Center.)

The Wikipedia article touches on that, too. Part of it centered around Jehovah’s Witnesses and their belief that standing for the flag was akin to idolatry and thus forbidden in their faith. First the courts wanted to force the kids to stand and pledge but later rulings reversed that decision.

Probably a lot of people would rather sit than stand for this pledge but stand because they fear judgment from peers and authority figures.

On the god and Canada side of things, our national anthem mentions “God keep our land, glorious and free” and there have been murmers around about wanting to edit God out of that line. On Canada Day (July 1st, you foreigners) a 9 year old made a name for herself by replacing God with Please in her version. It did not go over well if this report can be believed.

Her father explains Selaena’s reasoning to sing “please” as follows:

She wanted to be inclusive, given that her and a lot of her friends don’t even know what ‘god’ is. My children are secular and neutral – free to make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.

But, this alteration of the anthem led to organizers cancelling Selaena’s performance at a festival later in the month.

I realize that many people are offended by the removal of the word ‘god’ from the anthem, but they too must realize that in our multicultural society, the millions of Canadians that do not recognize any god or gods are equally offended by its inclusion. It was for this reason alone that my children have always sung the anthem this way – my daughter didn’t think she was doing anything that would be considered wrong. This will be my fight to have with the government, and has nothing to do with my daughter nor the CCC Festival.

It’s unlikely we’ll get God out of the anthem any time soon. In 2010 requests were made to change the lyrics, “true patriot love in all thy sons command,” to something less man-centric.

“We offered to hear from Canadians on this issue and they have already spoken loud and clear. They overwhelmingly do not want to open the issue,” said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office. “The government will not proceed any further to change our national anthem.”

If we ever get rid of Harper, maybe we can try again…


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