God Is Not Great (and other songs)

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out George Hrab‘s new album Trebuchet, as previewed for free on his own Geologic Podcast as well as several others (Dogma Free America, American Freethought, Skepticality, etc.). There are a number of skeptic/freethought tunes on it, insightful lyrics, and a great variety of musical styles. Just bought my own copy and am loving it. Check it out at:

http://www.geologicpodcast.com/the_geologic_podcast_episode_170
https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hrab6

Image source: http://www.geologicpodcast.com/the_geologic_podcast_episode_170

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Big Butter Jesus burns to the ground

Big Butter Jesus, aka Touchdown Jesus, a giant Jesus monument in southern Ohio made famous in part by comedian-songwriter Heywood Banks, just burned to the ground after being hit by lightning Monday night. Some were saddened by the fire, while others were amused that God would send a lightning bolt to consume a monument to his Son in fire. (God did allegedly send the real thing down to die a torturous death and burn in hell for 3 days, so I think setting the Jesus statue ablaze is nothing in comparison.)

This is big news; it made the mainstream newswires, which is how I found out about it. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it sounds like tons of people stopped by on the highway to see the giant fireball burn.

To look at the thing, in photos at least, you just kind of assumed if it wasn’t made out of butter, it had to be made out of something solid. Certainly somebody must have realized that making a huge flammable statue with a metal frame was not a good idea. I guess not. According to Yahoo News/AP, “it was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame.” The steel frame is all that is left now of the $300,000 statue officially called “King of Kings”. But never fear: the church says “”It will be back, but this time we are going to try for something fireproof.” (that’s an actual quote, by the way, from co-pastor Darlene Bishop.)

I found out about the monument thanks to a friend who showed me Heywood’s song a few years back. I thought it was hilarious. My wife, who’s a Christian as I’ve mentioned before, thought the song was hilarious, too. The song is often in my head when reading about various Christian wackiness. Here’s a link to the lyrics; it’s funnier if you just listen to it before reading the lyrics, in my opinion.

Heywood Banks was asked about the fire, and according to Daytona Daily News he said he has concocted new lyrics to the song in light of it burning down (“extra crispy Jesus!”). No YouTube or audio of this version seems available yet, but when it comes out I’ll be sure to post it here.

Image sources: http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Lightning-strikes-Jesus-statue-Ohio/ss/events/us/061510lightningjesus#photoViewer=/100615/480/urn_publicid_ap_org4d3393dbfb36415fbb259184b3a8d6e2 ; http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Dayton-Daily-News-lightning-King-of-King-thunderstorm/photo//100615/480/urn_publicid_ap_org_b8bd107213aa4e03a8cbb7d90584d889//s:/ap/us_lightning_strikes_jesus_statue;_ylt=Anli0fY6DBOdEojribnAFmJH2ocA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5bGZwZGlsBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bl9yX3RvcF9waG90bwRzbGsDZmxhbWVzc2hvb3R1
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Opt-out required for school prayers? Teacher fired for 2nd time

It is against both Tennessee and U.S. law to lead public school students in prayer. But some people just won’t stop breaking the law and trying to find ways around it. Should students have to opt-out in order to be spared from teacher-led prayers?

According to WLBT news, “A Franklin County High School teacher was fired on Tuesday for leading her students in prayer in the classroom,” At first this sounds like good news, because the school board did not renew her contract because of her illegally leading prayer in school. But the news is not entirely good.

Apparently, teacher Alice Hawley had been fired “over 15 years ago”…for doing the same thing: leading prayers in class. “A few years later” she was asked back. So at least 15 years ago, she was let go because she was leading students in prayer. Then she was asked back, let’s say 10 years ago as a conservative estimate since we’re not given exact figures. That means she very well may have been leading class prayers for the past 10 years until a student or parent complained, or someone outside the school found out.

The principal was allegedly aware of what the teacher was doing, at least according to one student. “And sometimes our principle [sic: principal] comes and he’ll bow his head and he’ll pray with us.” If the principal was coming in and praying, he obviously was aware of the practice at some point before the teacher was let go; and since he actively participated in the prayers he may very well also be breaking the law, depending on the circumstances.

But in addition to subjecting some students who may be of different religious faiths or no faith at all to the teacher’s prayers, it’s the teacher’s defense that particularly irks me. One of her students said her policy was that if a student objected to the teacher praying:

“She said you can leave a letter an anonymous email, or just tell her raise your hand in class,”

So apparently, if the student is presenting the situation accurately, this teacher thinks that it’s okay if she imposes religious prayer upon her students, who are minors, so long as she tells them they can raise their hand to complain or leave an anonymous letter if they object. What she apparently doesn’t get is that she is in a position of authority, and that as a public school teacher, she is also acting as a representative of the government. She is not allowed to advocate religion. For her to say that the default is prayer and that you have to complain to stop it, when most or all of your other classmates support the prayer, is clearly a violation and an undue burden to put on a minor.

The video shows several students with shirts or writing on their arms saying “I broke the rule, I prayed in school” in support of their now-fired teacher and her prayers. What happens if a kid does not wear such a shirt, or does not actively support their teacher? Will they be singled out overtly or subtly and treated differently?

Teachers and other people hired by the state or federal government should not be forcing religion on anyone, especially not children. Children should not be forced to protest in order for the law to be upheld; the adults should be doing this on their own. I am glad the teacher got fired, but appalled that she was rehired in the first place, that this was the second time she had to be fired for the same thing, that the principal appears to have known about such prayers and even participated in them, and that her leaving has now further brought students into the fray. Hopefully whoever is hired to replace Hawley will start off their tenure by setting a good example for their students: respect for both students’ rights and the law by not leading classes in prayer.

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Teach the controversy: Armageddon vs. Global Warming

Some more religious hilarity from the Onion. Thanks to Richard from Facebook for finding this one.


Christian Groups: Biblical Armageddon Must Be Taught Alongside Global Warming

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Where’s Jesus’ birth certificate?! (Photo)

While my wife and I were traveling through Arkansas this weekend, I decided we just had to pull over to take a picture.

I couldn’t help but laugh at this. I’m assuming there were two separate intended messages here:

• I haven’t seen enough proof that Barack Obama was really born in America, and therefore he shouldn’t be President.
• Jesus Christ is my savior, since he definitely died on the cross and rose again for our sins.

My reading of this scene, however, is

• People may say that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, but
• We don’t even have solid historical evidence of his birth, death, or resurrection, so how do we know he even existed?

My wife, who is a Christian, also understood right away why putting these two symbols together was pretty funny, since the result is almost certainly not what was intended in rural, highly Christian Arkansas.

By posting this photo, I am not necessarily claiming myself that Jesus never existed (although many before me have made such claims, understandly given the Bible can’t even get his stepdad Joseph’s ancestory right). It would be nice, though, if people became skeptical in a more productive way than being an Obama birther. They could start by demanding that their god or their church give them better proof of the “greatest story ever told” than a very deeply flawed Bible

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Quiz Show

Thanks to Dwindling In Unbelief, I just watched a funny video by nonstampcollector about contradictions in the Bible. The next time someone tries to tell you the Bible is inerrant, this should be a fun and educational way to show them that it’s most certainly not. I like the fact that the relevant passages are displayed each time an answer is given so that believer and non-believer alike can fact-check. Enjoy!

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Protecting victims not in the name of God, but in the name of Justice

I could not believe this headline when I saw it.

Irish cardinal to stay on despite abuse concerns (AP via Yahoo News)

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, is refusing calls to step down even though he is involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse (assault and/or rape) cases.

Can you imagine the head of any other organization—the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a prime minister of a country, even the den master of a cub scout troop—refusing to step down when he admits having knowledge not only of the sexual abuse of minors, but also of efforts to coerce victims into not reporting the abuse, yet he did not come public with this knowledge while other kids were being abused?

According to the article:

In the 1970s [...] he was at meetings where children had to sign oaths of silence about allegations of abuse against a Nobertine priest, Brendan Smyth, who was later convicted and died in prison.

Who else in this world, besides a so-called man of the cloth, would be allowed to continue leading an organization (with thousands if not millions of kids as members in that country, mind you) after he witnessed and kept silent about such a thing? And with 200 new allegations of abuse being brought to light between April 2009 and March 2010, who would have the audacity to declare he is going to stay on in his position?

Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Irish Catholics apologizing for the abuse in these and other cases, but

Victims of abuse said they were deeply disappointed by the letter as it failed to address the role of senior church leaders in the scandal.

But this news deeply disturbed me on the face level of sexual abuse, and the man’s unwillingness to take responsibility for his complicity in the matter, but on several other levels as well.

  • The AP article starts out by saying the cardinal was involved in “a cover-up of a sexual abuse case decades ago”. It isn’t until later that we read that “a sexual abuse case” (singular) involves “children” (plural). I find the use of the singular in the lead paragraph to be misleading.
  • Since the article doesn’t deem it worthy to mention the details of the case, I looked it up and found several sites (including a BBC News article from March) that state that it was two teenage boys, aged between 10 and 14 (is a 10-year-old a “teenager”?), who were abused. I don’t say “allegedly” because of the facts that the offender was found guilty and the Cardinal does not appear to be disputing the facts.
  • The BBC News article states that at the time Brady was a “relatively junior cleric it was not his responsibility to report Smyth to the police and that he passed all relevant information to his superiors. Smyth’s child abusing continued for many years after 1975.” The fact that he did not report the abuse and cover-up to authorities meant that other children were abused, for years.
  • The media are largely playing down the viciousness of the abuse that happened in these pedophile priest sex cases. As has been pointed out in many venues, the euphemism “abuse” in the media particularly irks me when referring to despicable rape and sexual assault of minors. “Abuse” sounds like maybe a priest touched or fondled children, which would be a serious, life-damaging event in and of itself. But Brendan Smyth was later accused of “rape”, according to a number of sites (including an article by Ireland’s public service station RTE).
  • I could not find information as to the nature of the abuse in the specific cases of the two children who were forced to sign the oath of silence, but if later children were allegedly raped, one can imagine the abuse might have gone beyond inappropriate touching. The article should have mentioned that the priest was later accused of rape. I have yet to see an American article that says a priest has been accused of rape, as Smyth was in later cases at least. For other accused rapists, and people who help cover up their tracks, do the media talk about “abuse”? Priests deserve no special treatment when it comes to reports of crime.
  • Not only do religious people not deserve a pass when it comes to reporting, they also should be equal under the law. I don’t know enough details about Cardinal Brady, but in other cases of accused rapists and abusers law enforcement and government officials have looked the other way, or given unfair and unjust treatment to accused pedophiles. I recently watched the film Deliver Us From Evil which describes an American priest (O’Grady) who abused numerous children over decades. Complaints to the police didn’t help: the church promised to keep him in a monastery away from children (which didn’t happen). If any other organization promised to keep a child abuser and raper away from children, would the law enforcement just let him go scott free, or would they be tried in the courts? He eventually was jailed, but is now free again. My understanding is that this is not an isolated set of incidents, but that some police and public officials have been knowingly letting the destruction of children’s lives go on for decades just because the accused are priests, clerics, and other religious people.
  • Lastly, when is public outcry going to be loud enough that police, government officials, and churches no longer protect rapists, abusers, and the people who cover up what they have done? It’s obvious they won’t protect children when left to their own devices, so people need to demand justice. I think some people still think the abuse is minor or not widespread, but slowly but surely the word seems to be getting out that these are not isolated incidents, but systematic cover-up allegedly going as high as the current pope (London Times, The Guardian).

The rape and sexual abuse of children is sickening and horrendous, and so is the cozy treatment the accused and their cohorts have been getting for years. The Catholic Church needs to be disabused of the notion that it is above the law and that their priests and cardinals are more important than the victims they leave behind. It is time for secular justice to get to the bottom of this and punish these criminals, not in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (since that apparently isn’t enough to set them straight), but in the name of justice.

Image source: Wikipedia

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Westboro Church video, from The Awful Truth

I just watched Fall from Grace, a documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church (a must-see if you haven’t see). Lo and behold, Unreasonable Faith posted on the very same day a video about Westboro Baptist Church from Michael Moore’s acclaimed The Awful Truth. Coincidence? I think so! Here is that clip below.

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Back in the saddle again

I apologize for my extended silence on my site and in the atheist/freethought/skeptic scene in general for quite a while now. For a little over a month now, I have been working 15 hour days (sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more). That stretch is finally over, thank no one! (Well, you didn’t expect me to thank God, did you?)

There’s been a lot going on in the godless community — perhaps most importantly, the victory by the FFRF in the National Day of Prayer case, saying that day is unconstitutional. That really picked up my spirits when I read about that and kept me chugging along.

I plan on getting back little-by-little back into the swing of things, catching up on world and personal atheist-related news, including fun yet thought-provoking stories about the religious wedding I had to participate in recently.

See you soon!

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Bible warning

Just in time for Easter, here’s a pretty scathing criticism I found of the Bible.

Oh wait, that’s from Wikipedia’s page about NORAD tracking Santa on Christmas Eve. My bad.

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