Poll: Most Non-Believers Decry CIA Torture, While the Religious Are O.K. With It

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.

Over at MSNBC, Steve Benen scrutinized the results of a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, and concludes:

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 yesBut 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)

Gay-Friendly Kansas Minister Hears How One Christian Opponent Wants To Cut Her Head Off and Put It On a Stick

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.

Taliban Kill At Least 132 Children in Pakistan School Siege, Burn Female Teacher Alive

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)

The Problem of Evil and the Florida Lottery

In your literary wanderings, you may have come across this quote, attributed (perhaps wrongly) to the Greek philosopher Epicurus:

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)

Wisconsin Priest Who Accused Atheists of Shunning Beauty, Fun, and Civic-Mindedness Is Cited For Indecent Proposal

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.