A Question of Atheist Scruples – Round 1

May 1, 2012

I found a copy of this at Value Village, a version of the game from 1984. I had no idea the game was still being made, though. According to official rules:

Scruples makes players sweat as they ask each other what they would do in a moral predicament. Luckily no one has to tell the truth and there’s no right answer!

Well, I guess that’s one way to play it. I was planning on playing it straight, though, since the point of this whole endeavor is to demonstrate an atheist’s ability to make ethical and moral choices. I’m going to pick three questions out of my card deck and answer them seriously. A fourth question will be added for readers who want to “play along” but feel free to respond to any question that looks like fun to answer.

So, question 1: You’ve gone to see a nude show. Next day, a female colleague asks how you spent the evening. Do you tell her?

Recall here that I am a woman, not a guy.

First, it depends on the atmosphere of the work place. I know people who made the mistake of telling coworkers they’d gone to the casino when it first opened and rumours got flying about how often they were probably gambling. Some of them were close to the truth, but that’s beside the point. Gossip might be the glue that holds a social group together but what people do off the job should be their own business (so long as it’s not illegal or hurting anyone). People love to judge other people on their choices, though. Setting up the notion that someone might have a reputation as a problem gambler (or “slut”) may effect how that person is treated in the workplace.

Second, it depends on how well I know her and what her role is in that workplace in comparison to mine. If she’s my supervisor, I don’t know if I’d admit I went to Chippendales or whatever. If I knew the woman well enough to know she was heavily religious and unlikely to be impressed with my blasé account of seeing men with their kit off, I’d probably lie and say I’d stayed in. If she was someone I did know well who’d be heartily envious over how I spent my night, I’d go to town elaborating on the show when we found a quiet time to catch up.

As an aside, Saskatchewan is the only province in Canada that bans the mixing of strip clubs and alcohol. A protest show called “Naked if I Want” is set to run here in Saskatoon on May 4th at the Cosmo Civic Centre. Email mybodymydance@hotmail.com to get more information or request a place on the guest list.

The idea was for the Liberals to host the stripping event and oppose the alcohol control regulation that prohibits establishments from serving liquor when the entertainment involves nudity, a strip tease performance, or a wet clothing contest—but the party shut it down.

“The members didn’t like it, there was no official policy passed, so it got shut down,” Buckner said. “I was devastated.”

Buckner, who performs as a drag king with the stage name Stevie Blunder, has since decided to hold the show and give the proceeds to support the Saskatoon Slut Walk and Consentfest. Both events are dedicated to “ending victim-blaming and making sex-positive attitudes where we really need them—here in Saskatchewan,” she said.

What a good first question. You’d think I had planned it so I could lead into that story, but I assure it it was all coincidence.

Question 2: In his will, a man leaves your charitable organization a substantial bequest but fails to provide for his sick widow. (The bastard!) The whole estate is needed to maintain the widow. (Shit!) Do you fight to keep the bequest?

Cripes. Temptation is to keep it, but if word got out, and it inevitably would hit the Twitterverse in a heartbeat, my organization would be likely shitbombed with complaints and accusations and a withdrawal of support from dedicated donors. Bloggers would write about this poor woman and set up funds so people the world over could dig deep into their own wallets for a couple bucks to help her out. She’d probably get a lot more money that way… but the right thing to do would be to announce publicly that the bequest was going to be redirected to her. The good press garnered from that magnanimous gesture would boost my reputation as a caring person and probably boost donations to my charity. Maybe I wouldn’t get the same dollar value in the long run, but I’d feel better about myself. She’d get the help she needs and I’d still be able to help others. Win win.

Question 3: You are the director of the neighbourhood food cooperative. A member – a single mother with four children – is caught shoplifting $30 in groceries. You suspect she has been stealing for years. Do you press charges?

I had to look up how food co-ops work. I’ve never used one, but I’ve walked by Steep Hill on Broadway quite often.

As a co-operative, our products represent what our members want: quality, not profit, is our motive. We as Steep Hill members have the opportunity to be involved with the everyday operation of our store through a monthly work commitment.

Shopping at Steep Hill is a friendly experience, without the pressures and stresses of supermarket shopping. Meeting your neighbours, getting to know people with similar concerns are added attractions at Steep Hill Co-op. Nobody profits except the members.

Okay, so I think what might work in a case like this would be bringing it to the attention of the other members to get their input. Would they be pissed off enough to want to cancel her membership or would they be willing to make arrangements for her to work the value of the food off? With four kids, she’d definitely need the food. I suppose it would also depend on how bad off she actually is. What if this is a woman who got a hell of a divorce settlement and could afford to buy organic at Sobeys but likes to give the impression that she’s merely a community conscious volunteer? In that case, yeah, I would want to press charges.

Question 4, and open to comments from the peanut gallery: You’ve accepted a date when someone you REALLY like calls and asks you out for the same night. Do you try to get out of the first date?

Okay, some of the questions are a little less thought-provoking than others…

And does the couple thank God for the husband’s stupidity as well?

January 3, 2012

He gets credit for finding their jeep. He ought to get credit for making them stupid enough to leave it in a position to be so easily stolen:

A Crawfordsville couple’s Jeep was lost but now it’s found, and they say God is to thank.

On December 9th, Jared and Angela Pickett’s Jeep disappeared from their Crawfordsville apartment.

“It was like I wanted to cry and then I wanted to be mad,” said Angela Pickett. “But I’m like, ‘who can I get mad at?'”

They were partially mad at themselves. Jared Pickett left his keys inside the Jeep between running errands, and he couldn’t lock his driver’s side door because he’d just replaced it with mismatched a dark green one.

“It made it that much easier for somebody to get into my vehicle,” Jared Pickett said. “And then leaving the keys in the console just was the cherry on top of the cake.”

To pile on, Jared Pickett, a member of the national guard, realized that he left his helmet inside the Jeep.

Good gravy. I hope he’s not typical of the National Guard.

Anyway, the couple prayed for a whole week then just as they were losing hope of ever seeing the vehicle again, Angela spotted it in a parking lot after getting lost using GPS. What a couple.

“I looked in the review mirror and I saw the green door, and I screamed, ‘There’s my husband’s Jeep.'” Angela Pickett said.

Once Angela stopped to get a closer look, she saw that the green door wasn’t just a coincidence. The Jeep also has some very distinguishable stickers on the back.

“I saw the orange motorcycle sticker that he has by his license plate,” Angela Pickett said. “Ao I hurried up and called 911. The police officer didn’t know what to say.”

Angela Pickett was speechless too.

“I was in shock. I just texted all my friends. I’m like, ‘I just found my husband’s Jeep,'” Angela Pickett said. “It was a miracle. God led me to his Jeep.”

The police officer was probably stunned that the woman had to use the door and stickers to recognize the vehicle that has been parked at her house every day for who knows how many weeks, months or years. Me, I tend to check the license plate number when I’m approaching what I hope is my car in a parking lot. That’s why I memorized it.

Security at the place where the jeep was left claimed it had been sitting there for a week before Mrs. Pickett came across it. Everything was still in it, so the joyriders obviously changed their mind about keeping a car that distinctive. Plus, finding a National Guard helmet in there probably make them a bit wary of hanging around lest a swarm of uniformed and morally sound men descend upon them and make them regret they were ever born.

Sometimes it can be beneficial to be completely idiotic, I guess. I’m glad they got their vehicle back, but I hope they’ve actually learned something here and won’t stop at, “Isn’t it great that God loves us so much?” Get a proper door, doofus, and lock your damn jeep next time. Cripes…

A noble lie: child trafficking and the Catholic church

October 19, 2011

I was as appalled as anyone when I read about the documentary that just came out regarding Spain’s stolen children. Over a span of fifty years some three hundred thousand children were taken from their birth mothers and sold to couples who could afford the adoptions.

The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties.

Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal.

Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth.

But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial.

In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents.

Documentation was then forged to make it look like adoption never took place, that the children had been born into those families, but it’s suggested that many of those couples had no idea they were buying a stolen child.

At the moment, that’s neither here nor there. I want to take a different angle on this. I was thinking about it instead of sleeping in this morning and wondering what kind of positive impact this may have had on Spain’s future.

What got me thinking about this was a chapter out of Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. U.S. crime rates were falling sharply in the early ’90s and theories abounded over the reasons why. Levitt and John Donohue, a law professor out of Stanford, came up with an ingenious one: the legalization of abortion after Roe v. Wade. Children who would have been born into single parent/low income families in bad neighbourhoods were not born, thus eliminating the potential for them to become criminals as teens and adults. Was that the destiny of every fetus aborted? Of course not, but it’s obvious a percentage of them would have resorted to a life of crime. After all, there was still crime in the ’90s so it makes sense that a percentage of kids born the ’70s found nothing productive to do with their lives except steal and kill people.

So, getting back to Spain. Am I condoning what they did? Fuck, no. Priests and nuns have a lot of power over Catholics and the assumed direct line to God creates a sense in believers those holy folk know what’s best and can be trusted not to lie through their teeth. I pity everyone who was tricked and deceived by the people involved in this long-running scam.

That said, I think it could be argued they unwittingly did Spain a tremendous favour by moving babies out of “bad” situations and into “good” ones. Never mind the assumption that these young mothers were sinners in the eyes of God because they had sex out of wedlock; if they were unwed, it was going to be difficult to hold down a job and raise a kid alone. They probably never got far through school, either. And, if they were actually married but dirt poor, that’s hardly the best environment for child-rearing, at least in terms of making sure a kid gets decent food and housing. We know this. We’ve seen enough evidence that this is the case. Transferring the babies to families that could afford to raise them well was a sensible decision. Horribly played out, but sensible.

I know nothing about Spain’s history or Franco’s regime so I have to nick some from Wikipedia:

Francoism professed a devotion to the traditional role of women in society, that is: loving child to her parents and brothers, faithful to her husband, residing with her family. Official propaganda confined her role to family care and motherhood. Immediately after the war, most progressive laws passed by the Republic aimed at equality between the sexes were made void. Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands. Even in the 1970s a woman fleeing from an abusive husband could be arrested and imprisoned for “abandoning the home” (abandono del hogar). Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without a co-sign by her father or husband.

And due to the sheer number of human rights violations in other ways,

in 2007, the Spanish government banned all public references to the Franco regime and removed any statues, street names, memorials and symbols associated with the regime. Churches which retain plaques commemorating Franco and the victims of his Republican opponents may lose state aid.

I hope I get a chance at some point to see this documentary. I wonder how many of these people will be able to reunite with their birth families. Franco had “encouraged” a lot of people to emigrate instead of sit jobless in Spain and if the Church had nothing in the way of compunction when it came to tweaking church records, good luck getting to the truth of origins. That’s one hell of a mess for all involved.

Gravelbourg church theft update

August 17, 2011

I wrote about this back in February of 2010 and then promptly forgot about it. I heard a brief thing on CBC Radio about her on the drive home from work today. Paulette Dumont’s case was moved from her small Saskatchewan town to the provincial capital of Regina so she could plead her case in French (away from most who’d know her, too).

Paulette Dumont, a volunteer at Our Lady of Assumption church in the town southwest of Regina, admitted to fraud and theft over $5,000 in connection with 63 fraudulent cheques worth more than $70,000 issued between January 2002 and May 2004.

CBC said the sentence would be 2 years conditional and served from home rather than jail.

Court heard 63 fraudulent cheques were issued between January 2002 and May 2004.

Under the terms of her house arrest, Dumont will be under electronic monitoring for the first six months.

The remaining 18 months she has to observe a curfew and meet as required with her probation worker.

The court did not set up a repayment schedule. It’s leaving the details up to the church.

Like they’ll ever see a fraction of that cash back in their coffers. I wonder what she thought she needed all that money for. Health issues? Overdrawn at the bank? Undisclosed gambling addiction? The possibilities are almost endless.

ingodwelust takes my posts but doesn’t give me credit

August 8, 2011

Colour me annoyed. I don’t care if people want to share it, so long as it links back to me in some way as the origin of it. Isn’t that how it ought to be done?

Or am I miffed for no good reason? Is this kind of thing typical?

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.

Debates over Dead Sea scrolls are still pretty lively

October 2, 2010

I found the results of a trial I didn’t know was going on involving scholars and a decades-long debate over the history and origins of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Raphael Golb, son of researcher Norman Golb, made a fake email address in the name of his father’s scholarly rival, Dr. Lawrence Schiffman. The whole reason he did that was to make it look like Schiffman was admitting to plagiarism, something old Golb accused him of a decade earlier. Yep, young Golb stole someone’s identity in order to “confess” to a different theft altogether. And he’s a lawyer. At least he didn’t try to represent himself…

Golb says his actions were not criminal. Rather, he said he was engaging in a spirited debate about the history of the texts and trying to highlight the fact that his father, a longtime scholar of the scrolls, was plagiarized by a rival professor.

Assistant District Attorney John Bandler told jurors during his closing arguments that Golb’s claims are untrue.

Bandler said Golb’s electronic campaign was calculated and massive, and it included the impersonation of five people, about 70 phony e-mail accounts and hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work.

It doesn’t look like the jury had to deliberate very long before calling the man guilty to 31 charges, either.

The article briefly explains the issue:

Norman Golb and Schiffman disagree on the origins of the texts. Schiffman says the texts were assembled by a sect known as the Essenes. Professor Golb says the writings were the work of a range of Jewish groups and communities. Scholars are split on the debate; both arguments have followers.

The scrolls were discovered in several ceramic pots left in a cave in Israel. A goat herder stumbled onto them in 1947 and from there the scrolls began a crazy, convoluted journey into infamy.

More than fifty years after their discovery, no one can claim to know the absolute truth about the Dead Sea Scrolls, although academics and amateurs alike generate ever more intriguing theories, wild claims, and media attention. It is a complicating factor that almost all the scrolls are copies of other manuscripts—some perhaps historical, others certainly fictitious, and all together, transcribed over the course of nearly three hundred years. It will probably never be possible to know for sure what among the scrolls is fact, when exactly it was recorded, and why: their origins, scribes, keepers, and meanings will likely remain a mystery.

Church volunteers steal money in Canada, too

February 8, 2010

Even in Saskatchewan.

A woman who volunteered at a church is [sic] Gravelbourg, Sask., is accused of stealing more than $91,000.

RCMP say a woman who did financial and administrative work for the Assumption Catholic Church has been arrested over the writing of unauthorized cheques.

Paulette Dumont, 64, is charged with fraud and theft over $5,000.

What more can be said? Gravelbourg has around a thousand residents so a story like this is probably a big blow for the town and area.

I wonder why she did it.

“Thou shalt not steal” — and yet…

November 24, 2009

$40,000 is a hefty chunk of change, and roughly the amount stolen by 70 year old Leah M. Wonyetye over her few years playing treasurer for her church. Her deception and felonies went unnoticed until church leaders got word that bills were behind.

Richland investigators brought in an outside auditor to go over the records back to 2006, when Wonyetye took over as treasurer.

The audit detailed a history of missing deposits and double paychecks totaling $40,104.39.

Confronted with the auditor’s report, Wonyetye admitted to the thefts, court papers said.

She remains free on her own recognizance, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Jan. 12.

“She is not a young woman,” Keirn said. “We did not incarcerate her, but she is going to have to figure out how she’s going to come up with this money. There is a chunk there.”

Churches, social clubs and other organizations should have multiple sets of eyes on all financial business, Keirn advised, and two employees should count and check deposits.

I’m glad she got caught and I’m glad she faces some charges. Stealing is a crime and anyone caught doing it is guilty of criminal behaviour. Call theft a sin if you want, but it’s also illegal and punishable by law. Asking God’s forgiveness is not going to get her out of this.

I wonder why she needed the money. I wonder why she thought it’d be okay to take it from the church. God wouldn’t mind? All for a good godly cause? God wanted her to have the money? Who knows what way she would have justified giving herself the money. Why she thought she’d get away with it..

Minister ignores commandment number 8

February 17, 2009

May as well hang for a sheep as a lamb as the old saying goes, so rather than steal twenty bucks, take $50,000? I see a former minister has been accused of doing just that.

Richard Bridges, 65, of Bowling Green, was arrested Monday after a grand jury indicted him, Kentucky State Police announced Tuesday.

The grand jury charged Bridges with theft, forgery and fraudulent use of a credit card, state police said.

Bridges was pastor at Franklin Presbyterian Church when the alleged thefts occurred from 2005 to 2007, said Detective Steve Bryan.

Bryan said the investigation began after members of the church noticed money was missing and contacted state police. The church removed Bridges as pastor, Bryan said.

Hypocrisy at its finest. The article goes onto say that the motive for the thefts was unclear but one of the comments below it appears to be written by someone familiar with the situation and the man in question.

He who is without sin should cast the first stone. Yes, he made a terrible choice and did wrong. However he was and is under stress from outside forces. In 2007 he had two strokes and was in ICU in a coma for 7 weeks. He is now on a kidney transplant list.He is a great man that made a mistake which has hurt a wonderful family and a mulitude of friends. I have a hard time with a Church that refused to let him pay it back and chose instead to press charges. This just gives people like some of these that have written these outragious comments fuel for the fire. Yes Annie, God has a special place for people like him,because he forgives. He also remembers all the good this man has done.

I’m sorry the guy’s health has suffered but that doesn’t erase the fact that theft is against the law and therefore a punishable offense. The church was completely within its rights to press charges against him. A church can’t just let that kind of loss slide by with a wave of a holy hand and a “God bless you.”

How would he have ever paid that kind of money back if he had to steal it in the first place? Instead of stealing it, why didn’t he ask for the church and his congregation to donate money to his medical bills, if that’s what he wanted the money for? Surely if people really cared about this guy’s situation, they would have offered it gladly. Isn’t that the “Christian” thing to do?


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