Very Very Christian of You

Brazilian pastor Marco Feliciano (40), who we’ve featured on Moral Compass before, is back in the news. This time he’s spreading Jesus’s love by maligning Beatle John Lennon, who was shot and killed in New York in 1980. Feliciano is pro-life — but pro-death when it comes to heathens like the Beatle peacenik.

John Lennon died because he offended God by suggesting that the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ, according to a Brazilian pastor.

“The Bible says God does not let this type of offense go unpunished,” evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano said in remarks published by local media on Tuesday and gleaned from a video of a sermon he made at his church in 2005.

Mr Feliciano, who is facing growing calls to resign from the Brazilian Congress’ human rights panel over his disparaging comments about gays, women and blacks, also said he would have liked to see the body of Lennon when the English pop star was shot dead in December 1980.


“I would have liked to be there the day they discovered his body, I would have lifted the cloth which covered him and would have told him: Excuse me, John, but this first shot is in the name of the Father, this one is in the name of the Son and that one in the name of the Holy Spirit.”

Feliciano was seven when Lennon was murdered. The image of a seven-year-old lifting the sheet from Lennon’s body, then addressing the corpse with holier-than-thou spite and glee, is probably not conducive to returning Brazilians to the churches they’ve been abandoning at an ever-increasing rate. Quoted in the New York Times,

Andrew Chesnut, an expert on Latin American religions at Virginia Commonwealth University, said that the fastest-growing segment in Brazil’s religious landscape may now be nonbelievers and people unaffiliated with any church, making up as much as 15 percent of the population. For a country that as recently as 1980 had negligible levels of people saying they were atheists, this development points to big shifts in society.

Let’s see if ragging on dead secular peacemakers can reverse the trend, shall we?

[image via spinner]

A Milestone and an Apology

The great news: In the 24-hour period between 4 p.m. yesterday and today, Moral Compass had roughly 126,000 page views — a new one-day record!

The so-so news: Despite the site having moved to a new, higher-capacity server this past weekend, some visitors still experienced temporary delays last night, when traffic peaked and the server began to choke. Sorry about that. We did digital triage as best we could.

The idea is to give swift 24-7 accessibility to all comers, preferably without shelling out thousands of dollars a year for an even wider data pipeline. (Note: I’m paying for Moral Compass myself, although some server capacity and all tech support is donated by a wonderful anonymous benefactor a few states away).

Thank you for bearing with us through these early-stage growing pains. I imagine that by the summer, we’ll have a modest revenue stream going in order to offset our operational expenses. We’re considering selling small ads, placing affiliate-marketing links, and/or perhaps asking for web donations from frequent readers. That revenue should help us stay up and running.

We’re thrilled that you’re here. Please bookmark this page if you haven’t already (or add Moral Compass to your newsreader). You can also join us on Facebook to learn of new posts the moment they are published. Thanks!

Hiring a New Pastor? Consider a Criminal!

Sometimes, organized religion looks for all the world like a rehabilitation racket for criminals.

Consider: Ex-cons with long criminal records, including assault and murder, can conveniently declare themselves reborn. Upon their conversion and release, the most convincing ones are instantly regarded as great pastor material by Christians whose penchant for forgiveness is as naive as it is fatal. The latest example:

The former pastor of the Cowboy Church of Marshall County was convicted Friday of sexual assault in Navarro County, Texas, and sentenced to 50 years in prison, a district attorney said.


Mark Allen Green, 42 [photo], was convicted of “continuous sexual assault of a child,” a Texas charge for ongoing crimes, for incidents involving a 13-year-old girl, said Lowell Thompson, criminal district attorney for Navarro County.

Green had served several prison sentences in Texas before being hired as pastor of the church in Albertville, according to a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Green had been in prison there “multiple times” on theft and burglary charges, with his latest sentence beginning in 2006, she said. [emphasis added]

Just the guy you want to go see in church every Sunday, preaching about right and wrong.

Look, I love the concept of forgiveness, in principle. I’m just not a fan of throwing caution to the wind and putting innocents in harm’s way. Christians think forgiveness is a feature of their faith; as I’ve argued before, I think it may be a bug instead.

For instance, two weeks ago, we learned of the guilty plea of John D. White, a mid-Michigan minister charged with killing a young woman in her mobile home. White is a violent ex-con who only needed to profess a faith in Jesus to be rehabilitated and employed as pastor — by a flock of well-intentioned if over-credulous forgiveness junkies.

He’s an ex-convict who settled outside Mt. Pleasant and became pastor of a tiny church, Christ Community Fellowship. Police say he confessed to killing 24-year-old Rebekah Gay on Oct. 31 as part of a sexual fantasy [necrophilia].

In 2007, [White had been] released from prison, after serving nearly 12 years for manslaughter in the death of a 26-year-old woman in Kalamazoo County, according to the Michigan Corrections Department. He had previously been sentenced to probation for choking and stabbing a 17-year-old Battle Creek girl in 1981. [emphasis added]

There’s nothing wrong with forgiving others and moving on. I’ve done it plenty of times (and I keenly appreciate that I’ve been the recipient of people’s forgiveness, too). But churches appointing known rapists and murderers as their clergy … sorry, that’s just another reason why people like me avoid the pews, and so-called holy men, on any day of the week that ends in a y.

NC Legislator Calls Praying to Allah ‘Terrorism’

Man! I’m an atheist and I’m nowhere near this harsh.

In an email exchange with a constituent, Republican state Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville was asked whether she was comfortable with a prayer to Allah before a legislative meeting. Presnell responded: “No, I do not condone terrorism.”

The first-year lawmaker who represents a district in the North Carolina mountains is a co-sponsor of House resolution 494, a [now withdrawn] measure asserting that North Carolina can establish a state religion.

Rabbi With Sense of Shame Leaves One Without

Telling lies is dirty work. Being asked to lie on someone else’s behalf is harder still. Not everybody can — or wants to — do it.

The spokesman for the chief rabbi of France, who has refused to quit his post despite admitting to plagiarism and lying about his qualifications, quit himself on Wednesday, French news agencies reported.

The spokesman, Rabbi Moché Lewin, did not give an explanation for leaving his job and did not comment on the case of the chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, though he praised him for his work in creating “a Judaism of openness.”

bernheim again

Openness in all respects, except for coming clean about his thievery and deception. Quick recap:

• Bernheim plagiarized parts of a book;
• smeared the deceased writer he plagiarized from, by saying the dead guy had copied him;
• lied about it until the lie was exposed in the press;
• without giving particulars, then cowardly blamed the affair on an assistant or ghostwriter who had supposedly hoodwinked him (notice a pattern here?);
• lied about having earned a particular Sorbonne University degree; and
• plagiarized an essay on the immorality of gay relationships.

There are credible allegations of additional literary theft on Bernheim’s part. We’ll find out more, I’m sure.

Yesterday, Bernheim went on Radio Shalom and opined that he had made “mistakes,” but had not not “committed fault in the exercise of my functions.”

“To resign,” he said, “would be an act of vanity and desertion.”

To resign would be an act of vanity? Are you sure you’re familiar with the definition of vanity, rabbi? Unlike you, I’m not paid to be a beacon of moral authority, so please forgive me, but I would have thought staying might be more vain.

Staying, in this case, is the mark of a man with an inflated sense of self-worth who values his own interest more than his followers’. And that man, possibly for years to come, will make those followers gaze in pained embarrassment at a false accuser / con man / thief / fabulist / liar who still claims the authority to tell other people about right and wrong.

Dommage, ça.


UPDATE, Friday morning: He’s gone.

[image via]

Numerology Inspires Butchering Buddhists

In holy books, numbers are rarely considered to be utilitarian placemarkers. Religion has a way of making believers try to infuse numbers with meaning. Take the Quran (please). Its followers say that the perfection of the book is partly in the mathematical relationships that supposedly point to its divine origin. Like so:

The miracle of the Qur’an is a phenomenal mathematical relationship of the chapters, verses, words and the numbers in the holy Qur’an. For example the Qur’an has 114 chapters (19X6), The first verse 1:1 known as “Bism’allah” consists of 19 letters. The total number of verses in the Qur’an is 6346, or 19 x 334.The “Bism’allah” occurs in the Qur’an 114 times (19 x 6), despite its conspicuous absence from Chapter 9. The famous first revelation ( 96:1-5 ) consists of 19 words. This 19-worded first revelation consists of 76 letters, & 76 = 19 x 4.

Et cetera. Never mind that you can find such links in any text with an excessive amount of numbered order. The more chapters and subchapters and footnotes, the more “meaning” there is to infer from the voluminous mathematical connections you can make between those numbered parts. It’s both tedious and silly (to a language-loving rightbrainer like me, at least), but that’s never stopped people from doing it. Some Bible aficionados think that there’s something numerically revealing about their book too:

Dark and unwholesome things are associated with 13 or multiples of 13. Belial – the personification of evil has a numerical equivalent of 78 – 13 x 6. All the famines and epidemics have been somehow associated with the number 13.


Disappointingly, Buddhists play the same games — at least a lot of the ones in Myanmar do, the saintly ones who’ve been rampaging through Muslim neighborhoods to commit torture and murder and arson. Last month, in the Meiktila area alone, sectarian violence by nationalist Buddhists claimed some 40 Muslim lives and 800 buildings, and it displaced roughly 8,000 people. What caused the blood orgy? One part of the answer is a book. With numbers. From the Atlantic:

One number has become indelibly associated with these attacks — 969, a “grassroots” Buddhist nationalist movement that many claim is supported by elements within the military. While 969’s unofficial leaders claim that the movement is a non-violent response to a Buddhist society under strain from “foreign” influence, its rhetoric brings to mind the kind of language associated with the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.

969 has its ideological roots in a book written in the late 1990s by U Kyaw Lwin, a functionary in the ministry of religious affairs, and its precepts are rooted in a traditional belief in numerology. Across South Asia, Muslims represent the phrase bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim, or “In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful,” with the number 786, and businesses display the number to indicate that they are Muslim-owned. 969’s proponents see this as evidence of a Muslim plot to conquer Burma in the 21st century, based on the implausible premise that 7 plus 8 plus 6 is equal to 21. The number 969 is intended be 786’s cosmological opposite, and represents the “three jewels:” the nine attributes of the Buddha, the six attributes of his teachings, and the nine attributes of the Sangha, or monastic order. …

The figure often identified as the de-facto leader of 969 is a monk named Ashin Wirathu [photo, front], who was jailed in 2003 for inciting religious conflict and released as part of a general amnesty in January 2012. The content of his sermons, distributed via DVDs he produces at his monastery in Mandalay, would not be out of place at the Nuremberg rallies.

When Westerners speak of Islam as the religion of peace, the phrase usually drips with sarcasm, and rightly so. But we tend to think of Buddhists as the real peace-bringers — non-violent and kind and humble. Considering the recent Myanmar spectacle of bloodthirsty saffron-robed Buddhist monks wielding knives and hunting down Muslims, that picture may need a little adjusting.


[image via BBC News]

Buy This and You Too Can Be a Ritual Circumciser

I’m a really good shopper. Just this morning, I was reminiscing about the most holy circumcision practice called metzitzah b’peh, wherein babies get their tiny bloody penises sucked by a possibly herpes-carrying Jewish mohel, and I realized we ought to try a little therapy and help them.

Not the babies (well OK, them too). But I was thinking mostly of Brooklyn’s vital mohel industry. To clean up the Jewish-baby-hummer profession which has been so needlessly maligned, we ought to get rid of the mohels who bestow the gift of STDs on infants, and replace them with new practitioners.

So … Want an exciting new career? This is your chance if you’ve always wanted to slice into defenseless baby boys’ genitals and suck their dicks for a living.

Ready? Just go to Amazon and buy this infant circumcision trainer.

Infant Circumcision Trainer, White_ Amazon.com_ Industrial & Scientific

Then also add this to your cart

Soft-Grip Snap-Off Utility Knife with 6 Blades - Lifetime Warranty -

and don’t forget this,

bloodand Baruch’s yer uncle.

Now just pucker your lips and go to town. Practice, practice, practice. The salary isn’t great, but you’ll get plenty of tips.

[tip of the yarmulke to Balto Dash]

Toronto Pools Ban Dads After Muslims’ Demands

Every Saturday morning, I take my youngest daughter to the Y for swim class. While she’s in the water, I sit on the bleachers and watch her, and chat with other parents.

Apparently, that makes me a perv in the eyes of a lot of Muslims. And if I lived in Canada, and we went to a municipal pool, I might be told to leave the pool area while averting my gaze — because I’m a guy.

TORONTO – When a single dad signed his nine-year-old daughter up for female-only swim lessons, he didn’t realize he — as a man — was going to be banned from watching her practice.

[The father] was shocked when he had the blinds to the viewing area of the Dennis R. Timbrell Recreation Centre pool in Flemingdon Park shut on him, and then was told by staffers it was for “religious reasons.”

Would it help if my daughter wore a 'modestkini'?

Would it help if my daughter (below) wore a ‘modestkini’?


“I spoke to a staff member and she told me that it’s because of Muslim women, that we’re not allowed to look at them or whatever,” he told the Toronto Sun Friday. “I don’t think religion has a role to play in a public pool.”

The city aquatics department confirms the account. The public pool also has gender-segregated time slots for men-only and women-only swimming, with the opposite sex not allowed to watch. This is requested by followers of Allah, for the same “religious and cultural reasons” as the no-male-onlookers rule that’s in effect during girls’ swims. The newspaper discovered that the policy, and the accommodation of religious demands, is in effect all over Toronto:

There are currently nine pools across Toronto that run the female-only swim program. All pools follow the same policy of not allowing people of the other sex to watch practices,

said city aquatics manager Anne Jackson.

Though some Muslims may crow about these concessions from the kuffar, I doubt they’re doing themselves any favors. The mental image I’m stuck with is of men who are collectively so sexually repressed sensitive that they might feel or do something impure at the sight of females — even eight- and nine-year-olds! — in a swimming pool.

Is that how Muslims want other people to think of them?

[images from the catalog of]

Filthy Habit: Nun Gambles Away Stolen $130K

Sisters are doing it for themselves:

A Roman Catholic nun with a gambling addiction has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $130,000 from two rural western New York parishes.


The Daily News of Batavia reports that 68-year-old Sister Mary Anne Rapp pleaded guilty Monday in Orleans County Court to grand larceny. She admits she stole the money from St. Mary’s Church in Holley and St. Mark’s Church in Kendall from March 2006 to April 2011.

[image via]

How African Witchcraft Courts Enrich Judges

Modern-day accusations of witchcraft often end in lynch mobs and terrible deaths. By contrast, accused witches in the Congo may be spared their lives, but not their meager savings.

“The Lucrative Business Driving Congo’s Witchcraft Courts,” via Worldcrunch:

In the Uvira highlands, the Bafuliru tribe holds Kihango court three or four times a month.

Men and women who are accused of practicing witchcraft are brought before the court to be tried. When a person is found guilty of being a witch, the typical sentence is forced exile, and at least three weeks doing forced labor for the Mwami – the tribal chief.

“The person must leave the community immediately. This saves them from being lynched,” explains tribal elder Edmond Simba.

In this remote Congolese region, many people still believe that sickness, death or accidents do not “just happen” – they are caused by individuals, that must be identified and neutralized. This is done through a tribal justice system based on traditional customs and superstition.

No kidding:

To detect signs of witchcraft, the “judge” uses a nylon thread that is “extraordinary and resistant,” explained the tribal elders that we spoke to. The thread is put on a metal plate, which is heated with fire. If the thread breaks, the person on trial is a witch.


It should be noted that the witchcraft trials are not free, and are an important source of revenue for the tribal chiefBefore the dispute can be brought to the court, each party has to pay a mandatory fee of $200 – the price of a cow – whether they can afford it or not.

The headmaster of a primary school situated in Rubanga, 10 kilometers from the village of Lemera, says the witchcraft trials are just a way to exploit the local poor farmers in order to generate revenue for the tribal chief. “It would be naïve to think this is a real test of witchcraft. The tribal judges, who are pawns of the Mwami, are bribed to hand out false verdicts,” he says.

In August 2012, one of the judges admitted that he faked the result of the nylon test so that the woman on trial, the granddaughter of a friend, could be spared.

Being extorted and exiled is still preferable over the alternative, I suppose. Consider the fate of one accused witch from Africa, 15-year-old Kristy Bamu. For days,

Kristy was attacked with knives, sticks, metal bars, ceramic floor tiles, bottles and a hammer and chisel by [perpetrators] Bikubi and Bamu, who also used a pair of pliers to twist his ear. He drowned after he was placed in a bath for ritual cleansing.

Where do you reckon that lovely scene took place? Kinshasa? Kigali?

Try London.

[tip of the miter to John Zipps; image via Worldcrunch]

Priest Collared; Robbed His Own Church

Father Couture’s going to have to do a lot of praying:

A two-year police investigation has ended with the arrest of a Windsor priest who allegedly spent almost a decade stealing more than $180,000 from his own church. Father Robert Couture, 49, who was the priest of St. Anne’s Parish in Tecumseh, is charged with one count of theft over $5,000.


The diocese realized something was wrong in 2010, when Couture was granted a personal leave of absence and left the parish. Diocese policy dictates that when a church has a change of pastors, there is an audit of the parish’s finances. Diocese auditors raised a number of questions, including a number of expenses charged to the church and a previously unknown bank account in the parish’s name.

[photo by Dan Janisse via the Windsor Star]

Man Loses Faith, So Porcelain Saint Cries Blood!

A miracle in the Philippines!

[A] statue of Our Lady of Fatima, made of porcelain, started weeping tears of “blood” on Monday night, said resident Joy Rayla. She told Sun.Star that her 14-year-old son was the one who first noticed the blood coming out of the statue’s eyes. Her son said the statue also wept blood last Good Friday, March 29.

Joy believes the incident has something to do with her husband’s losing faith in God, adding that her 41-year-old husband was once an active member of the church, but lost faith due to personal problems.


We’e been down this road many times before.

In 1995, a Madonna statue appeared to weep blood in the town of Civitavecchia in Italy. About 60 witnesses testified to witnessing the miracle. The local bishop said that he himself had seen it weep. The blood on the statue was later found to be male. The statue’s owner, Fabio Gregori, refused to take a DNA test. After the Civitavecchia case, dozens of reputedly miraculous statues were reported. Almost all were shown to be hoaxes, where blood, red paint, or water was splashed on the faces of the statues.

In 2008, church custodian Vincenzo Di Costanzo went on trial in northern Italy for faking blood on a statue of the Virgin Mary when his own DNA was matched to the blood.

In some countries, though, it’s not the hoaxers who face legal consequences, but the skeptics who oppose them.

Late last year, an Indian rationalist and atheist, Sanal Edamaruku, disproved claims that a Jesus statue had spontaneously begun to produce tears. He traced the source of the liquid to a leaky sewage pipe, and demonstrated that the water-producing feat of the statue was easily explained by capillary action.

After India’s Catholic Christian Secular Forum filed a complaint, Indian prosecutors charged Edamaruku with blasphemy, claiming he deserved jailtime for “deliberately hurting religious feelings and attempting malicious acts intended to outrage the religious sentiments.” Edamaruku went into hiding for two months and eventually fled to Finland.

Here’s a CNN video about the affair:

India’s prosecutors should probably consider putting Catholic clergy on trial too; after all, surprisingly enough, the Vatican is rather skeptical about these so-called miracles. According to Wikipedia,

Authorities of the Catholic Church … set very high barriers for their acceptance. … Even at the local level, Catholic priests have expelled people who claim weeping statues from their local church.