Earlier this week, Rachel at Friendly Atheist posted about Bryan Fischer‘s views on torture. Fischer says that when the CIA tortured terrorism suspects, that was OK, because they did so righteously, just like the murderers in the Bible did their work to please God.
For my money, Fischer is the Ann Coulter of the evangelical set: someone with a big mouth, a tiny heart, and a propensity to spout outrageousness. I’ve always considered his views to be on the outer edge of what most Christians find acceptable. But it turns out that at least when it comes to torture, Christians are, overall, broadly in agreement with the man.
While many might assume that the faithful would be morally repulsed by torture, the reality is the opposite. When poll respondents were asked, “Do you personally think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists amounted to torture, or not?” most Americans said the abuses did not constitute torture. But it was non-religious Americans who were easily the most convinced that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were, in fact, torture.
The results in response to this question were even more striking: “All in all, do you think the CIA treatment of suspected terrorists was justified or unjustified?” For most Americans, the answer, even after recent revelations, was yes. For most Christians, it’s also yes. But for the non-religious, as the above chart makes clear, the torture was not justified.
Atheists and agnostics are much more likely to condemn the gross, inhumane actions of the worst CIA interrogators.
[N]on-religious Americans were one of the few subsets that opposed the torture techniques — and that includes breakdowns across racial, gender, age, economic, educational, and regional lines. The non-religious are effectively alone in their opposition to torture. …
[The poll results are] a pretty interesting starting point for a discussion about faith, morality, the law, and the limits of human decency.
In 2009, there was a Pew poll about torture that revealed more or less the same divide between religious people and non-believers.
(Image via Shutterstock)
Could it be that some Christians are a greater threat to churches than the staunchest anti-theists? For Jackie Carter of Wichita, Kansas, the answer may well be yes.
Rev. Jackie Carter, a Wichita minister at First Metropolitan Community Church, says she has received death threats because of the gay weddings she has performed. The calls have been escalating since the state’s ban on gay marriage was struck down by a federal judge last month.
What do the threats entail? Carter quotes one:
“I’m going to chop your head off and put it on a stick and carry it around the town square.”
She says the threats have led to vandalism that has included broken windows. The church has even stepped up security. “I’ve asked folks who support the church to help with purchasing cameras that we can have outside the building for the protection. We have a security company now.”
Carter says she wants to ignore the threats, but she is scared. “When you’re here and the phone rings, and there’s heavy breathing and two seconds later the doorbell rings and then somebody’s throwing rocks through the windows. All those things combined create fear.”
It hasn’t affected her resolve. Carter says that despite everything, she’s going to continue to marry committed couples, straight and gay.
In an act of terror reminiscent of the 2004 Beslan massacre and the handiwork of Nigeria’s Boko Haram, Taliban fighters attacked a school in Peshawar, Pakistan today, killing at least 132 pupils and nine teachers, including a female instructor who was alive when the attackers doused her in gasoline and set her alight in front of her class.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban) has claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in revenge for an anti-terrorist military offensive. Spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said it was “just the trailer” to further attacks.
According to the New York Times,
The militants’ assault started at about 10 a.m., when nine gunmen disguised as paramilitary soldiers climbed the rear wall of the Army Public School and Degree College, a school of about 2,500 pupils, including boys and girls, a senior security official said. …
As Pakistani security forces responded, some of the attackers blew themselves up while others were killed by members of the army’s Special Service Group commando unit.
Desperate parents, meanwhile, rushed to local hospitals or gathered outside the school gates seeking news of their children. One of them, Muhammad Arshad, described his relief after his son Ehsan was rescued army commandos. “I am thankful to God for giving him a second life,” he said.
But at the Combined Military Hospital, the bodies of schoolchildren were lined up on the floor, most of them with single gunshot wounds to the head.
“They burned a teacher in front of the students in a classroom,” [an] unnamed military source told the US TV network. “They literally set the teacher on fire with gasoline and made the kids watch.”
According to a tweet by Omar R. Quraishi, an editor at The Express Tribune who has over 154,000 Twitter followers, “Some of the bodies brought to hospital during the Peshawar school attack have been headless: source.”
One expert on Islamist terror, Ahmed Rashid, said that
… the insurgents had various reasons to attack the school, one of which was to send a message to the supporters of Malala [Yousafzai], who advocates education for women and children. … Rashid also believes the Taliban targeted the school to demoralize the military.
The school, though founded to educate the children of army officers, has many pupils who come from civilian backgrounds.
(Image via Shutterstock)
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
The Epicurean paradox is an early version of the problem of evil. For thousands of years, people have been asking why an all-powerful deity does nothing to prevent disease, cruelty, and horrible deaths.
Pondering the problem of evil is challenging enough when good people suffer. It’s worse when good people suffer and the perpetrators barely do (or not at all).
And it becomes an exercise in pure frustration when this happens:
Timothy Dale Poole, a convicted sex offender, has won $3 million in the Florida lottery. The 43-year-old was arrested in 1999 and accused of sexual battery on a 9-year-old. He eventually pled guilty to attempted sexual battery in a plea bargain and is currently listed as a sex predator in state records. …
Poole was sentenced to 13 months in jail and 10 years of probation, but was sent to prison for 3 years when he missed his mandatory sex offender counseling sessions.
And now, in a big cosmic joke, he’s receiving a million dollars for each year behind bars. A celestial reward for raping a kid, and other criminality:
The Sentinel said he’s been arrested 12 times on charges that include grand theft and forging a check.
Commented a friend of Poole’s:
“He was flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe it.” … “He’s a very positive person. Very kind. Giving. I think that’s why he won,” Snyder said. “It’s Christmastime, and the dude deserves a break.”
Yes, for Jesus’s birthday, child rapists should get a break. And millions of dollars. It’s only fair.
Meanwhile, the victim is entitled to bupkis.
And while the morbidly obese Poole, who clocks in at 450 pounds, will be able to order any food he pleases for as long as he lives, and as much of it as he likes, this is what the Creator has in store for millions of His other children:
God is a standup guy, isn’t he?
(Bottom image via topnaz)
Two years ago, Monsignor Bernard McGarty was driving by a festive display of holiday lights in his hometown of La Crosse, Wisconsin, enjoying Christmas carols on the radio, when a thought struck him: How dismal and cheerless La Crosse would be if the town had embraced atheism rather than Christianity!
So, oblivious to the fact that winter solstice celebrations — with lights! — predate Christmas by probably millennia, Father McGarty soon penned an amazing editorial for the local newspaper that chiefly revealed how unlikely it is that he personally knows any atheists. Consider: If La Crosse had been founded and populated by atheists, McGarty claimed,
The symphony would not have a theater with perfect acoustics, such as the house provided by the Franciscan Sisters. If the symphony were to play in a less august space, any of the religious music of Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bach, Bizet and Verdi would be offensive to atheist ears. … At Passover, Holy Week and then Easter, no hearing Handel’s “Messiah,” celebrating resurrection. The “Messiah” lifts me off my feet. I soar as I hear it. Does atheism produce any comparable composition celebrating nothingness? By their fruits you shall know them.
There would be no YWCA, no YMCA providing a swimming pool, gymnasium, weight room and other programs. Are atheists getting a free ride on we believers?
Do atheists send or receive valentines? Do they sing songs, tell a joke or buy a drink on Paddy’s Day? At Mardi Gras, do they dance? Are atheist children allowed to trick-or-treat or dress in funny costumes? Do they believe in fun?
Right. I guess we are supposed to think that in atheist-majority countries like China and Sweden, there are no pristine symphony halls, no state-of-the-art sports facilities, no celebrations, no exuberance, no humor, no dancing, no sharing and charity and bonhomie. Just millions of moping, indolent sourpusses being miserable together.
I’m writing about Father McGarty today because he just made the newspaper again (the same one where he published his 2012 editorial – that the editors might well have rejected as hate speech if it had been about any minority group but atheists). But this time, McGarty isn’t in the op-ed pages. He’s in the news/crime section, because of the special way that he decided to get an early start on celebrating the Christmas season.
A La Crosse priest was cited Thursday for disorderly conduct after asking a Wausau massage therapist to touch his genitals. Wausau television station WSAW reported that Monsignor Bernard McGarty, 89, was receiving a massage when he lifted the coverings off his groin and asked the masseuse to rub his genitals. The massage therapist refused and left the room, according to WSAW; she told police McGarty then called her a derogatory name.
Happy holidays to you too, Father.
McGarty was not arrested but issued a $250 ticket.
A retired priest, McGarty served in several leadership positions with the Diocese of La Crosse and is a visiting scholar of ecumenical studies at Viterbo University.
We ought to thank Father McGarty for leading by example. Without him, we might never have known that one great way to spread holiday cheer is through sexual misconduct and cursing.
You know what might tip a reasonable person off to something untoward going on in the mikvah, the ritual bath that orthodox Jewish women (and men) take to purify themselves? I dunno, maybe something like this:
Emma Shulevitz remembers seeing a clock radio in the mikvah. The rabbi told her not to put clothes in front of it.
For some reason, Shulevitz thought nothing of it at the time. But the rabbi, Barry Freundel of Washington D.C., was arrested this week when it was finally discovered that the clock radio — reported to be, appropriately, a Sony “Dream Machine” — contains a small camera. The pervy cleric had been digitally ogling unsuspecting women for years.
A rabbi at a prominent Washington, D.C., synagogue faces voyeurism charges following accusations he secretly recorded women in the changing and shower area there.
Dr. Barry Freundel was released on his own recognizance Wednesday under the conditions he stay away from the victims, the temple and the mikvah where, according to the police report, at least six women were photographed. …
Detectives [said] there could be more than 200 victims, some as far away as Israel.
Freundel’s lawyer, Jeffrey Harris, offered this statement:
“As you might expect, he’s in a lot of pain.”
So the rabbi is feeling deep shame and overwhelming remorse?
It’s not that, Harris clarified:
“He has a back ailment, and I really don’t have much more to say than that.”
Watch this report from NBC’s News Channel 4:
Newsweek asks a good question: Why, if Americans are so horrified by the ISIS beheadings, do we collectively shrug about the beheadings carried out by Saudi Arabia, our so-called ally?
Since the beginning of the year, 59 people have had their heads chopped off in the Islamic paradise, in cases that wouldn’t pass judicial muster in a halfway enlightened nation.
The Saudi legal system is based on Islam’s Sharia law. Some countries that use Sharia possess a penal code, but Saudi Arabia does not.
This is what awaits the condemned.
If you are a prisoner in Riyadh, the capital, you might be taken to the ocher-colored Deera Square, which has acquired a macabre sobriquet: Chop Chop Square. Before you arrive, police and security forces will have prepared the area. It may have been cordoned off to keep curious spectators at a distance, but they will congregate nonetheless.
You will be led to the center of the square, on the bare earth. According to one of Saudi Arabia’s state executioners, Mohammed Saad al-Beshi, who was interviewed in the Saudi newspaper Arab News in June 2003, your energy is likely to fade at this point, from sheer exhaustion and fear. You will not fight for your life, nor protest against your restraints.
Also because usually there’s Valium or another sedative coursing through your system – a pill that the regime touts as a kind offering to calm the convict’s nerves, but which is also to the executioner’s benefit: less chance of fear, panic, and writhing.
The executioner — always a man — is not allowed to talk to his victim. He reads your charge and some verses from the Quran. You are blindfolded, which is extremely important, and not for humanitarian reasons. If, when the sword is coming down, you turn in fearful anticipation, things could get messy. The blade might not sever with a single chop, or the executioner could miss his mark. The blood won’t be neatly caught by the plastic bags, and the head might not be so easy to scoop up…
Even in death, you are not liberated. Your murder is meant to be a sign to the people in the crowd that Saudi Arabia does not tolerate dissent. A loudspeaker announces your crime. Your body may be taken away to be buried immediately. But if you were accused of banditry or drug smuggling, like seven Yemenis who were beheaded last year, your corpse will also be crucified.
Mohammed Saad al-Beshi’s most productive day so far was when he beheaded seven prisoners. He told Arab News, “It doesn’t matter to me: Two, four, 10 – as long as I’m doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter how many people I execute.”
Al-Beshi started his trade in Jeddah in 1988, but many of the beheaders [there is currently a shortage of them] come from a long line of executioners, an occupation passed from generation to generation, like a cherished heirloom.
They’re nothing if not versatile.
In Saudi Arabia, at least, the executioner isn’t limited to separating bodies from heads. He also cuts off other body parts — hands, legs — depending on the crime.
Newsweek notes that the most recent beheading victim was convicted of — no joke — sorcery. Some Saudi prisoners are put to death for political dissent.
Also, last year a Saudi defendant who’d caused another man to become paralyzed was ordered to undergo the same fate, reportedly by having the executioner sever his spinal cord.
Through it all, the silence from the West is deafening.
George W. Bush, for one, made it clear that he would rather hold hands with the Saudi King — and repeatedly kiss him, see the video below — than ask the despot to stop the head-chopping barbarity. That attitude continues: Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia to strategize about ways to stop the human-rights violations perpetrated by ISIS. As expected, Kerry gave the Saudi executions a free pass, never raising the subject.
A bizarre and disturbing story, via Opposing Views:
Moussa Diarra, 48, an African native, wanted to have anal intercourse with his 24-year-old wife. When she refused, he forcibly sodomized her before attempting to circumcise the woman around 9 p.m. Sept. 14 at his Manhattan apartment, the New York Post reports.
The victim called police about a week after the assault. Diarra, who is a native of the Ivory Coast, where male and female circumcision is widespread, was arrested on Sept. 23, according to court records.
There are African countries, such as Nigeria, whose Christian populations engage in female genital mutilation (FGM) on a scale equal to or greater than Muslims perform FGM in their families and communities. That’s not the case in Ivory Coast, where, a U.S. State Department report says,
The practice is prevalent among Muslim women, and is also deeply rooted in traditional Animist initiation rites in western, central and northern Cote d’Ivoire.
The practice on village women is strongly linked to the survival of local secret societies and mask-cults at the heart of village spiritual life. The clitoris is thought to possess power and its removal during initiation gives that power to the village spirits and traditional spiritual leaders or masks, without which the spirits/masks and the entire village would die.
Attempts to eradicate the practice, or even to transform it from a physical to a symbolic act, are perceived as threatening to “assassinate the people” of the village.
More about what exactly took place in the Diarra household, and why, should come out at trial. The suspect is scheduled to appear in court on October 27. He faces charges of forcible sex act, aggravated sexual assault by compulsion, attempted assault with intent to disfigure or dismember, and assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon.
He maintains that the allegations are false, and says he doesn’t know who cut his wife.
Jesus is a great pal, now and forever. Wouldn’t you like to meet him?
Police say that was the basic motivation behind the crime committed the other day by Pamela Christensen, an Illinois mother with end-times delusions who confessed that she had attempted to murder her three daughters.
After 911 dispatchers received two hang-up calls from the Christensens’ Montgomery home, officers went there and found the girls upstairs. Two of them had been stabbed in the chest by their God-besotted mom.
[P]olice said Christensen told officers that she was sending the girls home to “meet Jesus Christ.” The three girls, ages 12, 16 and 19, told police that their mother held a knife to them and asked them if they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Two of the girls were stabbed. Police recovered a poisonous liquid in the home’s kitchen, which Christensen said she had concocted out of dishwashing detergent in an attempt to subdue her children. She told police she had hoped they would fall asleep so she could stab them. Police said the children refused to ingest the poison…
The woman told officers that her husband, Vaughn Christensen, had left messages on the phone telling his wife that the world was ending, and that she needed to prepare the family to meet Jesus. Vaughn Christensen is a former pastor at a Sugar Grove church.
The three girls, who have non-life-threatening injuries, were released from a local hospital and are now reportedly staying with a grandparent.
Their parents had been going through a contentious divorce, during which Pamela Christensen accused her husband of having become increasingly “violent” and “erratic” toward her and their daughters.
Sounds like she wasn’t entirely free of violent and erratic behavior herself.
Ms. Christensen, who is being held on bail of one million dollars, is due in court on Friday.
(Image via Montgomery Police Department)
What do you call your brother if he’s a priest? Father?
I suppose that mystery was amplified in the Belczak family. Many years ago, Michigan brothers Edward Belczak (below, left) and Thomas Belczak decided that they loved the Catholic Church so much, they wanted to become its professional holy message-spreaders. After a while, they figured that they were entitled to quite a bit more than what the Lord, in His wisdom, had been giving them – and they took it.
Father Thomas Belczak has been required to step aside as pastor of St. Kenneth Parish, Plymouth, pending further steps by Church officials. Law enforcement officials are investigating allegations that he has misused parish funds. During this time, Belczak will not be permitted to be present at St. Kenneth; he will not be working or serving there in any capacity. …
These charges come just months after Belczak’s brother, Father Edward Belczak and his church administrator were indicted for stealing about $700,000 from St. Thomas More Church in Troy over eight years.
It’s unclear to law enforcement officials if the investigation of Thomas Belczak is connected to the investigations of his brother in Troy.
The money pilfered by Father Edward
… allegedly included most of a $350,000 gift to the church from the family of a dead parishioner and cash donated by churchgoers during special Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections, prosecutors said. The priest spent some of the money on a condominium in Palm Beach, Fla., according to the indictment.
I’m sure it’s all a giant misunderstanding… or perhaps the godly brothers have a version of the Ten Commandments that somehow excludes the one about stealing.
It’s not unusual for a sermon to draw boredom and stifled yawns. But pastor Juan Demetrius McFarland of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama found a very special way to make congregants hang on his every word these past few Sundays.
Last month, he began admitting, right from the pulpit, that he’d done some bad things. And bit by bit, over several weeks, it all came out: how he’d been using drugs, and how he’d “mishandled” church money.
But those revelations were nothing compared to this bombshell confession: McFarland not only said that he’d been having sex with women in his flock — in the church building, no less — but also that he’d wittingly exposed his sexual partners to the HIV virus.
For the last six years, he said, he’d known that he has full-blown AIDS.
Church deacon Nathan Williams Jr. told Channel 12, the local NBC TV news affiliate:
“He concealed from the church that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS.”
Five days ago, the church decided to oust McFarland.
You’d think that prosecutors are by now throwing the book at him, intent on trying him for (let’s say) reckless endangerment or attempted manslaughter. But to avoid further scandal, and to safeguard the identity of of the pastor’s victims, the church may not press charges.
Also, Channel 12 learned that McFarland holds a leadership position with the Alabama Middle District Baptist Association, a group that has 34 member churches all over the state. It seems he’s still got his job there.
Calls to association leaders indicate that at this time there are no discussions to remove McFarland from his position.
It’s a timely story in a way. Just two days ago, I wrote about uber-Christian investment scammer Ephren Taylor, and about the victims who didn’t come forward because they thought it would reflect badly on their congregation if the truth was publicized. That same evening, I happened to drive past a church close to where I live, and I was struck by the message on its sign. So I took a picture:
Love is… deafness when scandal flows.
Well, there’s your problem.