Do Do That Voodoo That You Do So Well

When his son started dating a girl that Raymond Bradshaw didn’t like, the CIA clerk went to a nearby cemetery, collected dirt from a grave site, and placed it in a bag to try to destroy the relationship. Bradshaw, you see, is an avid dabbler in black magic.

His wife, Cheryl McLaughlin, a school teacher and Catholic-church employee, wasn’t on board with his practicing the dark arts, and secretly hoped for some supernatural arbitration of the kind she favored:

“I kept believing God would intervene and there would be a conversion [of Bradshaw senior],” she said. “But I think that was wishful thinking.”

She found out just how perceptive an observation that was when, about two years ago, she came home

 …to find candles flickering in her living room, with slips of paper under each that read: “make her stay” or “make her love me.”

A year later, in summer 2012, [her husband] was seen lighting paper on the grill, chanting and spreading ashes around the back yard.


Unbeknownst to Cheryl, Ray Bradshaw had progressed from trying to keep her to trying to kill her — with voodoo.

Prosecutors said Bradshaw … hired a purported African voodoo priest he met online and paid that person $500 to cast a spell that would kill McLaughlin, ensuring that she didn’t divorce him and seek alimony.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the spell didn’t work. So Bradshaw turned to a more conventional method of disposal (I use ‘conventional’ in a Tony Soprano kind of way):

When the magic spells failed, prosecutors said, Bradshaw, 64, approached his 16-year-old nephew, bought a gun and offered to pay him $2,500 to kill McLaughlin.

Yay, rationality! However,

The nephew instead told his mother, who alerted police.

The bloodthirsty husband was arrested, and he eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count of solicitation of murder. That’s right, one felony count — I’ll bet that attempted murder-by-voodoo is nowhere to be found in the U.S. penal code. Such an oversight.

Yesterday, Ray Bradshaw was sentenced to four years in prison, where I suppose he might resume his efforts to kill his estranged wife by sending black-magic cooties her way. I’ll let you know how that goes.

[image via]

A Most Spiritual Child Rapist Faces Life in Prison

The Right Honorable Reverend Arnold Mathis loves to sanctify teenagers with his blessed cock.

The Florida pastor did it in the early nineties, when he committed “lewd and lascivious assault” on a child in Leon County.

Despite his being a registered sex offender, church authorities put Mathis on the payroll upon his release, which meant that they gave him the chance to abuse his authority to try and rape again. And did he ever.


Mathis used a cell phone between November 2004 and January 2005 to lure a victim, then 14, into having sex, according to the Justice Department. They first met at a high school basketball game. Mathis molested the boy at least three times.

Federal prosecutors say Mathis also tried to persuade two 16-year-olds to have sex with him between May and November 2011. He met one at Higher Praise Ministries Church in Lake Wales, where Mathis volunteered in the youth group. He met the other at a basketball game in Polk County. Mathis told them he was a ­pastor, offered to be their godfather, and promised them presents like money and sneakers.

A jury found him guilty on Friday. As a recidivist child predator, Mathis currently faces life in federal prison — and he still has to contend with a state court’s 19 counts of sexual battery against him, among other charges.

[image via]

Pastor Stalks and Harasses Two of His Flock

Aron Andonie, the pastor of Spring Valley Church of God, Muhlenberg Township, PA, found a cell phone a year ago. Rather than return it to its owner, he realized he could hide behind that stranger’s account if he used the device to send indecent text messages. So Andonie picked two female members of his congregation and began texting them lurid proposals, some containing photos of penises. Soon, he was doing this nearly every day, until the women went to the cops and an investigation pointed to Andonie.


Police used cellphone company records to determine that the mobile minutes were reloaded at a Reading pharmacy and two Cumru retail stores. They obtained surveillance video from those locations to confirm that Andonie purchased the minutes.

Convicted of harassment and stalking, the now ex-pastor was sentenced to up to 350 days in prison yesterday, to be followed by three years of probation.

[image via the Reading Eagle]


Holy War Explained



[Cartoon by David Sipress, from the March 25 issue of the New Yorker]

‘Convert or Be Tortured.’ They Kept Their Word.

Pakistan, land of Muslim light and love:

Local clerics attacked a house belonging to an Ahmadi family in the Kasur district of Punjab on Tuesday and subjected the family members to violence allegedly over their religious belief, The Express Tribune has learnt. A mob led by a local cleric chanted slogans against Ahmadi families, their religious beliefs and their community before breaking into Mansoor’s house in the Shamsabad area. The five members of Mansoor’s family tried to take refuge in a room but the mob broke into the room as well.


Police personnel were reportedly present at the spot but did not take any action against the mob.

Mansoor was severely tortured after which he lost consciousness, while his wife and his 70-year-old uncle were also beaten. Mansoor was shifted to a hospital where authorities claimed that he is in critical condition. …

Sheikh Yousaf, Head of the Ahmadi community in Kasur, said the house was attacked when Mansoor refused to convert.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Church Surveys

The Church of England recently commissioned a survey about prayer. I don’t know about you, but if I were to hire a fancy polling firm to help me figure out how the public perceives one of my core products, I’d have all kinds of burning questions. In the case of prayer, I’d want respondents to tell me:

– Do you pray?
– If not, have you ever prayed?
– How long ago was the last time you prayed?
– How often do you pray?
– How many years have you been praying?
– Has your prayer frequency increased or decreased since ten years ago?
– What is the benefit you derive from prayer?
– Do you believe your prayers are answered?

And so on. It took me less than a minute to come up with those.

Curiously enough, none of those questions were asked of the more than 2,000 Britons who took the survey. That might be — I’m just speculating — because the Church of England knew it wouldn’t like the results. Presumably, “Half the people think praying is a load of bollocks” would not be a well-received summing-up at Church Headquarters. Yet that would be a likely summary in a nation whose Christianity was thought to be “in terminal decline” even a dozen years ago, and whose hurtling down the path toward secularization has only accelerated since then.

prayer facepalm - Google Search

I took the trouble of scanning through all 30 pages of the “Prayer Survey” results just now (PDF here). There’s a grand total of one question about prayer. This one:

Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?

And that wet noodle of a question is it. All the other queries in the Prayer Survey — that’s its official title — aim to find out whether respondents have gone on a foreign vacation recently, which social-media sites they frequent on their mobile phones, how many cars they own, and so on.

But it gets better. Much better. You see, not only did the Church hire a big-name polling firm (ICM — Clear Thinking In a Complex World) to ask 2,000 Britons one puzzlingly-worded question about prayer; the Church then also secured the services of an aggressive PR outfit, the Press Agency, to spin and spread the result.

How do you suppose a team of mendacious creative media specialists might present the exciting news about prayerful Britain?

Like this: Nineteen percent of the respondents said that regardless of whether they ever prayed, if they had to pray for something, they’d pick … nothing. They couldn’t come up with anything, or didn’t care to. So the Press Association, on behalf of the Church of England, twisted that into the following crappy headline:

Power Of Prayer Believed In By Four Out Of Five UK Adults

The Press Association managed to put that passive-voiced monstrosity on the UK Huffington Post and various other low-standards media outlets today. Meanwhile, the Church of England published a version on its own website that was just as factually douchey, if not as grammatically contorted.

Power Of Prayer Believed In By Four Out Of Five UK Adults Says Easter Poll

Guardian columnist Martin Robbins rightfully pointed out today that

…the ninth commandment tells: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”, which is old-person-speak for “don’t make stuff up”. Or as Exodus puts it, “You shall not spread a false report.” A newspaper report, say, spread through a wire agency.

I’m not a praying man, but if I were, I’d probably ask God to take whatever actions He deems appropriate against devious twits who fib in His name.

[Tip of the miter to Chof; image via Good Reads]

Is ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome’ (RTS) For Real?

I’m of two minds when it comes to the existence of a mental affliction that some psychiatrists and psychologists, like Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico, have been banging the drum about. It’s called religious trauma syndrome (RTS).

Explains Winell,

RTS is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group.

On one level, it seems like just another made-up pathology. The latest version of the U.S. psychiatrists’ manual, the DSM5, is rife with questionable disorders and syndromes. A whole gaggle of shrinks (and the pharmaceutical companies who love them) are never shy about dreaming up new ones.

Then again, it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched that many children who grow up under an authoritarian belief system that threatens them with a horrible snuffing if they engage in bad behavior (“The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23) are eventually going to have problems, perhaps many years later. So, notwithstanding my skepticism about the ever-growing thicket of mental disorders, I’m fairly open-minded about RTS.


Winell is well aware of the naysayers’ reservations, and she’s ready with a counter-argument.

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves.  Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

She understands, too, that many people are surprised by the idea of RTS,

because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. …

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. … Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black-and-white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

To be clear, much as it would please some atheists, neither Winell nor Tarico is saying that belief in God is itself evidence of a mental disorder. They are talking about specific unhealthy family and social environments that are created by strict religious edicts and the unbending, dogmatic enforcement thereof.

Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world.

More here and here.

[image via wisegeek]

P.S. I edited this post a day after it was published, to correct the source of the quotes. Several quotes attributed to Tarico were in fact Winell’s. My apologies for the error. — T.F.

‘Suffer the Children’

Bible time.

But Jesus said, ‘Suffer the children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the reign of the heavens.’ (Matthew 19:14)

Bible interpretation being a notoriously confusing endeavor, it’s quite possible that scores of clergymen thought that Matthew 19:14 said “Make the children suffer, and I won’t forbid you to cum on them, for you will be in heaven.”

I don’t know how else to explain what happened to Chris Whelan and his schoolmates.

More confusion over what stuff means.

More confusion over what stuff means.

Molested as a 10-year-old at the Jesuit-run Burke Hall in Kew [Australia], Chris Whelan marched to the headmaster’s office to tell him what happened. “His first reaction was immediate and physical,” Mr Whelan recalled on Monday. “He reaches into the drawer, pulls out his strap and tries to hit me across the face.”

Mr Whelan felt relieved when he left Burke Hall for Xavier College, but there he was again to be sexually abused by Victoria’s “most famous Jesuit” who preyed on several vulnerable children in Mr Whelan’s class, he told the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled sex abuse.

One boy at Burke Hall was “kicked up the arse” so hard he later had to have stitches in his sphincter.

[image via reddit]

Jesus Finally Returns, and His Name is AJ Miller

Waiting tor Christ to return to Earth? Then wait no longer: I’m happy to report that — Hosanna! — the Messiah is already living among us, in Australia, and that he has Tom Cruise good looks and an Aussie accent.

Meet Alan John Miller (a little disappointing, “Miller,” isn’t it? I mean, “Carpenter” would have been perfect).

Anyway, Miller is a former Jehova’s Witness pastor who’s had his share of trouble. His mother tried to commit him to a psychiatric ward. He fell out with his church over an incident with a prostitute, so he started his own religious organization, and of course graciously volunteered to head it.


After Miller realized he was the historical Jesus, reborn in the 20th century, he took a girlfriend and told her she was Mary Magdalene; however, he turned out to be oddly fallible with that proclamation, as he soon kicked out Mary Magdalene #1 and traded her in for Mary Magdalene #2. Incidentally, this latest Mary had no knowledge of her first-century self prior to meeting Miller, but these days can barely stop bawling when she recalls in vivid detail how her beloved was nailed to a cross 2,000 years ago. See the video (below).

These days they surround themselves with dozens of international followers, including small children, in a religious center deep in the Australian bush. You can read more about the darling duo here and here and here.

Pop quiz: In the video, the guitar-playing Messiah can be seen and heard strumming a song, starting at 17m57s. It’s pretty cheeky, when you think about it. Do you recognize the tune?

Click on the blanks to reveal the answer. Jesus the Second is playing a song by Tears For Fears called, appropriately enough, Mad World.

You Can’t Spell Good Without God: The Lord Loves Uganda and Wants His People to Kill the Gays

What’s so fascinating about the fresh-faced American missionaries in God Loves Uganda, the Roger Ross Williams documentary that premiered at Sundance this year, is that they exemplify a particular brand of goodness. They think of themselves as a force of light and progress, and it would be churlish to deny them the claim.

After all, they truly want the economically less fortunate to rise up and live better. These Africa-bound missionaries make considerable sacrifices in time and money to provide not just spiritual growth, but tangible and important infrastructure improvements like new schools and medical clinics.

And what’s wrong with that? At first blush, these are the kinds of Christians that any non-believer would be proud to associate with.

But scratch the surface, and murkiness intrudes.

Religion Dispatches has more:

Filmmaker Williams was given remarkable access to leaders and missionaries affiliated with the International House of Prayer (IHOP) movement based in Kansas City, and he makes the most of it. Dominionist Lou Engle describes Africa as a “firepot of spiritual renewal and revival,” and be believes Uganda has a special prophetic destiny. Engle has tried to distance himself somewhat from the infamous “kill the gays” bill that is pending in Uganda’s legislature, but here he is on film, at his TheCall rally in Uganda, standing with speakers calling for passage of the bill. [emphasis added] …

The film also includes footage of Engle’s pro-Prop. 8 rally in California at which he warned that allowing same-sex couples to get married would unleash “sexual insanity” and a spirit “more demonic than Islam.”

God Loves Uganda also features

…a pastor [who] marvels that aid from U.S. evangelicals increased threefold when they started attacking homosexuality. Churches’ financial success brings added clout to anti-gay pastors like Martin Ssempa — who drives his congregation into a frenzy by showing explicit and extreme gay pornography — and the politicians allied with them, like David Bahati, the sponsor of the kill-the-gays bill.

And then there’s evangelical Scott Lively, an oily, nauseating Christian propagandist who

…blames homosexuals for the Nazi movement and Holocaust. In the U.S., Lively is a marginalized and discredited figure, but in Uganda, he has not only had the platform of Martin Ssempa’s TV show, he was invited to speak before the Parliament. Lively has been working for years to convince people in Uganda and other countries that gay people are out to recruit their children and destroy their societies.

OK, fine, but these are just the bad apples, right? What about those fresh-faced young missionaries we’ll gladly break bread with, the love-filled sharers who just want to do good? Religion Dispatches‘ Peter Montgomery has their number, too:

The film follows one young missionary, Jesse Digges, and his wife Rachelle. At one point the filmmaker asks them about the anti-homosexuality law. Their smiles stiffen, and they say they don’t really know what’s in the law. Whether or not you believe them, their lack of concern, or willful ignorance, comes across as shameful. They portray controversy over the legislation as a Western media creation. But the documentary’s footage of anti-gay histrionics at churches, rallies, and on the floor of the parliament make it clear that the threat is all too real.

Uganda is part of the Commonwealth, an organization of 54 states; homosexuality remains illegal in 41 of them.

Penalties range from the death sentence in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan to 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia.

So what’s there for the Christian Right? American anti-gay evangelists are drawn especially to sub-Saharan countries for two main reasons that I can see.

One is that the Western fingerwaggers are increasingly realizing that their message of bigotry is doomed in the U.S. and Western Europe, but likely to find a warm reception in poor countries where gay people are still forced to be closeted.

The second reason is that the population of sub-Saharan Africa is astonishingly young. Some 40 percent is 15 years or younger; in Uganda, that pearl in the neo-colonialist crown, it’s about 50 percent. Young people are almost by definition not only more impressionable and easily led; they can also provide a long lifetime of fervent service to their adopted ideals. “They can reach multitudes; they can reach nations,” as one of the Christian aid workers exults in the movie trailer above.

Mitch Potter buttresses my point in today’s edition of the Star, a Canadian newspaper.

Nowhere is the global battleground as heated as Africa, where a widening inter-denominational network of right-wing Christian groups has brought America’s culture war into play, helping to engineer legislation like Uganda’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.

Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia, in a new Political Research Associates report titled “Colonizing African Values,” describes a series of new fronts in Africa, with U.S. churches, including the Pat Robertson-founded American Centre for Law & Justice, opening offices in Kenya and Zimbabwe to advance anti-gay theology in the corridors of African power.

Kaoma acknowledges that U.S. Christian activists backed away after an international furor surrounding the first tabling of the 2009 Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill.

But Koama adds:

“While these leaders backed off, key institutions of the U.S. Christian Right stepped up their efforts to bring their style of persecuting sexual minorities — and opposing reproductive rights — to the continent.”

The result goes beyond the sort of intolerance we still see occasionally in the West — the kind now mostly confined to nasty taunts and heated rhetoric. In the thousands of African towns and villages where the Christian Right has established its beachheads, there’s a new boldness in the air, expressed through

…harassment, discrimination, persecution, violence and murders committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We should respect anyone, religious or not, who helps others obtain clean drinking water, better medical care, and education.

Nevertheless, we also ought to reserve the right to cast a very wary eye on religious do-gooders and their ‘Have Bible, Will Travel’ mindset. These days, they know enough not to make their tangible offerings contingent upon the recipients also embracing the spiritual ones. The harm they do arrives in different shapes than the human damage outlined in, say, The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver’s exegesis of 1960s missionary zeal; but it is harm nonetheless, all the more nebulous and  frustrating for containing sweet bits of benefit and benediction.

Wicked Pisser: Pastor Pees in Buddhist Temple

Last August, a Protestant South Korean clergyman visited the Donghwa temple in Daegu — but hardly to pay his ecumenical respects.

The Reverend Seong made a beeline for a Buddhist shrine in the temple, where he used a marker to write insults on a portrait of Buddha and on various wall paintings. Then he unzipped, and urinated into the bowls and incense burners. Security cameras recorded Seong in the act.


The monks filed a police complaint the following day, submitting the surveillance footage as evidence. The reverend was arrested and made a full confession. He explained he had defaced the Buddhist temple in a fit of anger because its sacred texts are “filled with false words.”

Seong was ordained in 2005 and had been working as an assistant pastor at a nearby church.

Temple authorities say they repeatedly asked for an official apology from Seong’s church; they finally received one yesterday, seven months after the golden-shower incident.

[image via koreabang]

New Visitor Record, and Another Sincere Thanks

Amazing. Just five days ago, we peaked at more than 6,000 page views in 24 hours, and we were thrilled.

Yesterday, we very nearly doubled that.

Or rather, you did.

Total page views on Sunday: 12,200. (I guess atheists don’t take that Day-of-the-Lord stuff too seriously for some reason.)


Oh, we also doubled our number of Facebook followers over the weekend, plus we tallied almost 1,400 website page views yesterday that were the direct result of people sharing our Facebook updates.

Moral Compass isn’t even six weeks old. We’re blown away by your enthusiasm. Again, thank you.

Honestly, I thought we’d be making this site for just a couple of hundred people — and we would have been fine with that. I’m delighted that it turns out we’re capable of drawing a five-figure audience, and we are more committed than ever to making this both an informative and entertaining place for you to visit.

If you have suggestions, hit us in the comments.