Of Human Bonding

Conciliation between Catholics and Jews has been a lung time coming.


[Via ABC News]

On Being Militant

Image via AtheistWorld.



Ebayer Uses God to Justify Her Thievery

Nice images, aren’t they?


The first picture was made by Stephen W. Oachs. The one in the middle is by Ksenia Raykova. The one on the right is by Carol Cavalaris.

Other than the fact that these are images by artists with some serious (and most likely hard-earned) chops, what do they all have in common?

They are among scores of digital works that are being illegally peddled on eBay by a seller named bellasmomgodsway (for the sake of brevity, we’ll just call her GodsWay). She has them listed in an eBay section called ‘Direct From the Artist.’ Yeah. Not really the kind of ‘artist’ that the good folks at eBay had in mind.

Here’s one of GodsWay’s listings:

Photo Picture Image 99 Cent Auction Owl in A Tree Hoot Owl Forest Decor Pic | eBay

Pro photographer Stephen Oachs, who got that shot, wasn’t asked. He didn’t license the image to GodsWay, and doesn’t get a penny from the eBay sale. The same is true for all the other high-end image makers whose work GodsWay rips off.

You see, GodsWay scours the Internet for quality images, copies them with a click or two, and makes them “hers” by putting her watermark smack dab in the middle. Then she lists the stolen works on eBay, and delivers them (sans watermark) to the buyer, digitally. She’s done it hundreds of times, netting as little as a dollar for each sale.

The watermark she applies (it reads ‘bellasmomgodsway’) is an especially chutzpah-filled touch, because like all watermarks, it says “this is mine, respect my copyright.” Wow.

It goes without saying that this thievery is both immoral and illegal, but we’re supposed to think it’s OK, maybe because she has a seller name with the word God in it. And the word Mom. Oh, and the name of a little girl, her future adopted daughter. Is that enough apple-pie schtick for you?

How do we know about the adopted daughter? Because GodsWay tell us in the auction description. In all of her auction descriptions, actually.


I’m not a grinch, and I’m well aware of the monetary difficulties that adoption can inflict on a family of modest means. In the past decade, my wife and I adopted two absolutely awesome girls. They mean everything to us. With a good deal of financial pain (which we knowingly brought upon ourselves when we decided to adopt), we paid all our adoption-related expenses — get this — without resorting to petty crime.

Maybe an all-powerful Creator could get GodsWay to reflect on the fact that some of those expenses were paid thanks to my work as a professional photographer. I work hard to create my images; then I sell them, and I provide for my family with those sales. As a result, I find it ever-so-slightly galling when people invoke the Almighty to screw actual creators out of enough of our livelihoods that it may well affect our own chances of adopting another child — or of buying our existing kids meals, books, toys, an education, and so on.

A friend sent GodsWay a message via eBay, asking if she’ll teach her future child that the Bible says it’s cool to steal other people’s stuff.

No reply yet.


Postscript:  The image guidelines that we apply on this blog are here.

Update: GodsWay’s eBay listings all got pulled Thursday evening EST — whether as a result of multiple complaints about her thieving behavior, we cannot say.

[Big thanks to Michelle Grove for the editorial tip]


A Day to Defend Free Speech About Religion

We don’t have to worry about it much in the West, but there are dozens of countries where criticizing religion, or even just saying that there is no God, is a hazardous affair that can land you in jail — or worse. If you sometimes feel under siege for being an atheist in the U.S. or Europe, imagine what life is like for the folks listed below.

Today, March 14, is an international day of action to defend apostates and blasphemers worldwide. The organizers wish to highlight ten specific cases.

• Alex Aan, Indonesia: 30-year-old atheist, said on Facebook there is no god. Imprisoned.

• Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Baz (also known as Ben Baz), Kuwait: Blogger and atheist, jailed, charged with blasphemy (that’s him in the picture).


• Turki Al Hamad, Saudi Arabia: Novelist, in prison for tweets critical of Islam and Islamism.

• Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia: Charged with apostasy for setting up a website that “harms the public order and violates Islamic values”.

• Asia Bibi, Pakistan: 45-year-old Christian mother of five, sentenced to death for “insulting the Prophet Mohammad.”

• Hamza Kashgari, Saudi Arabia: 23-year-old Muslim, charged with blasphemy for Tweeting about Mohammad and women’s rights.

• Saeed Malekpour, Iran: Sentenced to death for “insulting and desecrating Islam.”

• Shahin Najafi, Germany: Lives under an Iranian death fatwa for writing a song critical of an imam.

• Ahmad Rajib, Bangladesh: Atheist blogger, killed last month in a machete attack by angry Muslims.

• Alber Saber, Egypt: Atheist blogger, sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy.

Please, support them by going here and following the links. Thanks!

[image via Laughing in Purgatory]

George Lucas Meets the Pope

…with maybe a little Futurama thrown in.


What Did the Pope Do in Junta-Era Argentina?

From the mid seventies to the early eighties, Argentina was politically wracked by a military junta that had illegally seized power from the Péron government in 1976. The generals, led by unelected President Jorge Videla, held on to the reins until 1983.

Thousands of people who opposed the regime were murdered, a purge that Videla deemed regrettable but necessary to restore “Christian morals and values.” The dictator saw himself as a bulwark against terrorism, and he defined a terrorist as

…not only someone with a gun or bomb, but also anyone who encourages their use by ideas incompatible with Western Christian civilization.

Suspected dissidents could expect to be arrested or kidnapped, and taken to secret detention centers, where they might undergo torture

…with methods including electric shock, rape, simulated asphyxiation with water, and mock executions. They were left naked in cold wet cells through the winter, and were told their families would be killed if they didn’t tell what they knew.

Perhaps we will soon learn what Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now the new Pope, did and didn’t do during those seven dark and terrifying years.

We already know this: The Catholic Church as a whole did not oppose the dirty war, nor did it publicly protest the treatment of any of the scores of left-leaning activists and intellectuals who were kidnapped, beaten, tortured and killed. In fact, the church did pretty much the opposite. It habitually offered Videla support and advice.

A relative of one of dictator Videla's "disappeared" reacts to the news of his sentencing.

A relative of one of dictator Videla’s victims reacts to his sentencing.

Just last year, around the time of Videla’s long-overdue sentencing, the close ties between Videla’s goons and the Roman Catholic prelates who lent him a veneer of legitimacy was confirmed by none other than … Videla himself.

Argentina’s former military dictator said he kept the country’s Catholic hierarchy informed about his regime’s policy of “disappearing” political opponents, and that Catholic leaders offered advice on how to “manage” the policy.

Jorge Videla said he had “many conversations” with Argentina’s primate, Cardinal Raúl Francisco Primatesta, about his regime’s dirty war against left-wing activists. He said there were also conversations with other leading bishops from Argentina’s episcopal conference as well as with the country’s papal nuncio at the time, Pio Laghi. “They advised us about the manner in which to deal with the situation,” said Videla in a series of interviews conducted by the magazine El Sur in 2010 but published only on Sunday [July 21, 2012].

Videla’s confession to El Sur

… confirms long-held suspicions that Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy collaborated with the military’s so-called process of national reorganisation, which sought to root out communism. In the years following the 1976 coup led by Videla, thousands of left-wing activists were swept up into secret detention centers where they were tortured and murdered. Military chaplains were assigned as spiritual advisers to the junior officers who staffed the centers.

In the 2012 book Disposición Final by Argentinian journalist Ceferino Reato,

Videla confirms for the first time that between 1976 and 1983, 8,000 Argentinians were murdered by his regime. The bodies were hidden or destroyed to prevent protests at home and abroad.

It’s debatable whether the ex-dictator truly came clean with that statement. Other sources, including human-rights groups, put the number of disappeared at 30,000 or more.

But the complicity of so-called men of the cloth has long been an open secret. Military cadets of the era recall that Catholic chaplains told them that “torture was not a moral problem but a weapon.”

The vicar for the army, Bishop Bonamin, characterized the government’s actions as a defense of

…morality, human dignity, and ultimately a struggle to defend God … Therefore, I pray for divine protection over this ‘dirty war’ in which we are engaged.

Through it all, where was Father Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis?

It’s a fair question, isn’t it? He was already a star within Argentina’s Catholic hierarchy, recognized for his work rigor and leadership potential.

And there just may be a couple of skeletons in his closet:

On 15 April 2005, a human-rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, as superior in the Society of Jesus of Argentina, accusing him of involvement in the kidnapping by the Navy in May 1976 (during the military dictatorship) of two Jesuit priests. The priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, were found alive five months later, drugged and semi-nude. The complaint did not specify the nature of Bergoglio’s alleged involvement, and Bergoglio’s spokesman flatly denied the allegations.

Nothing came of it, but I expect that a tenacious investigative journalist can build substantially on the groundbreaking work of award-winning Argentinian muckraker Horacio Verbitsky, who explored his country’s Dirty War in books and articles. Verbitsky got several of the Videla regime’s henchmen to talk about their crimes. For instance, former navy captain Adolfo Scilingo, now serving a 640-year sentence in Spain for killing suspected leftists in Argentina, told Verbitsky that under Videla, “We did terrible things …, worse than the Nazis.” Scilingo pushed some 30 of his victims out of military planes flying over the Atlantic. Scilingo says he was so disturbed by his first death flight that he went to see a navy chaplain, Time magazine reported in 1995.

“He told me that it was a Christian death because they did not suffer, that it was necessary to eliminate them, that war was war and even the Bible provided for eliminating the weeds from the wheat field.”

The Roman Catholic Church, long criticized for tolerating the military, responded last week with a veiled mea culpa chastising priests who may have condoned the “dirty war.”

Perhaps Father Bergoglio somehow managed to avoid this then-pervasive, nasty political maelstrom. Or he might have found himself in the middle of it — holding, as he did, a position of prominence within the very Catholic Church that collaborated with Videla’s junta at the highest levels.

General Jorge Rafael Videla Redondo, beloved by Catholics

General Jorge Rafael Videla, beloved by Argentina’s Catholic establishment

As the brand new Pope Francis, who shepherds more than a billion Catholics and who is their final arbiter of morality, Cardinal Bergoglio should both expect to and be able to withstand a little scrutiny.

For the sake of the Catholic Church and its followers, critical questions about il Papa‘s past should have been raised well before his election today. If they were, within the conclave perhaps, the world is now entitled to the answers. If they weren’t, I’m counting on a few enterprising reporters to begin providing the facts in some detail.


P.S.  For another example of how the Catholic Church too often aids strongmen and dictators, going as far as to encourage oppression and murder, read Luis Granados’ spine-chilling account of the Spanish Civil War. The Vatican, the Spanish Catholic leadership, and Generalissimo Franco all egged each other on to see who could be the fiercest anti-communist. With the Church’s blessing, Franco accepted military aid, including operational support, from both Hitler and Mussolini. More than 100,000 people went missing in the Spanish conflict. In most cases, they were never heard from again. In the Spanish countryside, the bones of the victims still occasionally work themselves to the surface of their unmarked shallow graves, as if begging to be acknowledged.

 [top image via De Volkskrant; bottom image via Cutting Edge News]

Gaybashing New Pope Invokes “Father of Lies”

The new Pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, opposes marriage equality (but of course). He is so fiercely against it, in fact, that he claims those in favor have aligned themselves with Satan:

“Let’s not be naive. We’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”


Sadly, he’s not quite as good at speaking out against non-fictional, plain-as-day evil:

Critics accuse him of failing to stand up publicly against the country’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983, when victims and their relatives often brought first-hand accounts of torture, death and kidnappings.


Irony, Thy Name is Religion

Bekasi Pastor Charged With Assaulting Member of Intolerant Group | The Jakarta Globe

[from the Jakarta Globe]

That’s One Way To Win Them Back

A great product needs no advertising, they say. And so:

Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr. has a problem: He needs to fill his 1,500-seat evangelical mega-church in Miami Gardens on a Tuesday night. Solution: The holy man is promising to eat a cockroach live onstage tonight if enough worshippers come out. It’s just the latest attendance-boosting stunt from a pastor who’s shaved half his head, waxed his legs, and even been Tasered onstage.

Priest Hires Hitman to Kill Teen Accuser

From our files, a story from 2010. The good news is, Father Fiala has time for extensive Bible study.

Father John M. Fiala

A Texas jury has sentenced a former Roman Catholic priest to 60 years in prison for plotting the death of a man who accused him of sexual abuse. Prosecutors had asked jurors Friday for a life sentence for 53-year-old John M. Fiala. … The ex-priest will be eligible for parole after 15 years. Fiala was convicted Thursday for solicitation of capital murder. Prosecutors say Fiala tried to hire a neighbor’s brother to kill the man who accused him of abuse in 2008 when Fiala was the priest at a rural West Texas parish and his accuser was 16.

[image via sgn.org]

Men of the Cloth: Special Rape Edition

Note: All headlines and news snippets from the past 48 hours. It’s by no means a complete roundup.

Joliet, Ill.:

The Diocese of Joliet has expanded its public list of priests facing “credible” accusations of sexual abuse on Tuesday — some of whom are being named for the first time, including a former chaplain at Driscoll High School in Addison. After releasing hundreds of documents in response to a court order Tuesday, the diocese separately added a dozen names to a list of priests facing credible or substantiated allegations of abuse. The list, which is available on the diocese website, now stands at 34.


New Orleans, LA:

A former associate pastor at Greater Works CME Church in Kansas City, Mo., has been arrested in New Orleans in connection with child molestation and forcible sodomy of a child. George Spencer, 48, was arrested without incident in New Orleans, the FBI said. He was charged by Jackson County prosecutors on Tuesday with statutory sodomy, forcible sodomy, three counts of child molestation and two counts of sexual misconduct involving a child.

Ipswich, Mass.:

There are more abuse allegations against a Roman Catholic priest who is already accused of abusing a young boy in Ipswich. The Salem News says Rev. Richard McCormack has been indicted on additional counts of child sex abuse.

Vacaville, Calif.:

A former Eastern Orthodox pastor has been sentenced to 18 years in a California prison for molesting five children from his Fairfield parish. A Solano County judge also ordered the Rev. Robert “Silas” Ruark of St. Timothy’s Orthodox Church to pay $10,000 in restitution and to register as a sex offender.

Jerusalem, Israel:

Army Radio reported Monday that a 70-year-old rabbi, who was not named but was identified as being from a “very well-known hasidic movement,” agreed to return to Israel in the coming days and face his accusers. … One man told Army Radio that his 15-year-old daughter told him the rabbi grabbed her breasts from behind as he kissed her. The girl’s older sister said the rabbi committed similar acts on her three years earlier, when she was 17.

St. Joseph, SC:

A former St. Joseph-area youth minister has pleaded guilty to two charges of criminal sexual conduct. Matthew David Feeney, 44, pleaded guilty in Washington County last week to second-degree and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, the Washington County prosecutor’s office confirmed. … Feeney was accused of sexually assaulting two brothers, who were 9 and 14 years old when the assaults started, according to court documents.

Dublin, Ireland:

Former priest Patrick McCabe (77) pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to three counts of indecently assaulting a 13-year-old boy on two locations in Dublin between January 1 and September 31, 1979.

Moria, South Africa:

A Zion Christian Church (ZCC) prophet has been arrested for allegedly raping a 27-year-old woman at the church’s headquarters in Moria. The woman alleges that the prophet put a knife to her throat as he raped her on Saturday morning during an all-night prayer session at the church premises, east of Polokwane. The suspect is said to be a full-time prophet who lives at the church’s official residence.

(The story’s reporter, without apparent sarcasm, describes the church in question as “a known beacon of morality.”)

Yuba City, Calif.:

The Rev. Julio Guarin-Sosa was arrested on suspicion of child molestation in Yuba City, Calif. The priest, who is visiting the United States from Colombia, is being held at Sutter County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. He will also be charged with sexual battery.

Greenville, SC:

A Catholic priest with ties to the Upstate is on administrative leave following an accusation of sexual misconduct with a minor, according to the state’s diocese. Father Hayden Vaverek had “his priestly faculties withdrawn” after someone reported the misconduct.

Queensland, Australia:

A retired priest charged with more than 50 child-sex offences dating to the 1970s is “not well” in hospital, his lawyer says. The man, 77, was charged yesterday in a magistrates court with 57 counts of indecent dealing and one count of common assault.

 [image via Gospel According to Hate]

A Pointed Argument

News report from Washington State, where one religion-besotted man got a little stabby:

A 55-year-old suspect in a stabbing in a Starbucks coffee shop drive-thru at one of the busiest intersections in Clark County may have been motivated by religious extremism, according to a probable cause affidavit. Scott C. Fandrich of Ridgefield appeared Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault. …

Fandrich is accused of attacking Jerry Kush, who is either 70 or 71, just before 5 p.m. in the Starbucks drive-thru at 11502 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., in Cascade Park, after the two had a conversation about religion, according to court records.

A witness said that Fandrich had made statements in the past about “his willingness to die for Islam.”