A Little Experiment

…with interesting results.



‘They’re Taking Our Kids’

In Indonesia,

A six-month Good Weekend investigation has confirmed that children, possibly in their thousands, have been enticed away over the past decade or more with the promise of a free education. In a province where the schools are poor and the families poorer still, no-cost schooling can be an irresistible offer.


But for some of these children, who may be as young as five, it’s only when they arrive that they find out they have been recruited by “pesantren”, Islamic boarding schools, where time to study math, science, or language is dwarfed by the hours spent in the mosque. There, in the words of one pesantren leader, “They learn to honor God, which is the main thing.”

Whole terrifying story here.

[Photo by Michael Bachelard via the Brisbane Times]

Oz Sikhs Declared Exempt From Helmet Law

Some are more equal than others:

Members of the Sikh community will be exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet in Queensland [Australia] under new laws to accommodate religious beliefs.

Transport Minister Scott Emerson announced the change to the state’s bike helmet laws allowing religious exemptions on Tuesday morning.

Mr Emerson said it was a “common sense approach” to the issue.


The law change comes after practising Sikh Jasdeep Atwal successfully fought the $100 fine he received last year for riding a bike without a helmet [photo].

He took the case to court, arguing that as a Sikh he was required to wear a turban that could not fit inside a helmet.

Selflessly acting as Mr. Atwal’s freelance personal shopper, I’ve endeavored to help him with his quest for spiritually-approved head protection. While a turban will not fit inside a helmet, a helmet can most assuredly fit inside a turban. Just Think Big, my friend.


By the way, last month, a Canadian court decided that Sikhs may carry ceremonial swords in the courtroom for religious reasons.

[Jasdeep Atwal image via Just Commodores]

No Doubts, No Curiosity, No Educational Gain

If the ‘Dayton’ mentioned in the voiceover is Dayton, Tennessee, then that would be the same town where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial took place 88 years ago. How we’ve progressed! [hat tip: Holy Shit]

P.S.: The defense attorney in the Scopes trial, Clarence Darrow, is remembered in part for his observations and aphorisms. Here are a few:

“Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas.”

“The best that we can do is to be kindly and helpful toward our friends and fellow passengers who are clinging to the same speck of dirt while we are drifting side by side to our common doom.”

“I am an agnostic; I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure of.”

He also once exclaimed, “Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt!”, and that is a sentiment that I hope Bible Belt teachers, parents, and students will one day take to heart.

Yesterday’s Reddit Shitstorm: A Post-Mortem

Moral Compass unwittingly caused a mob fight of quasi-Biblical proportions on Reddit yesterday.

It happened when a Reddit user named Unbliever posted a link to this Moral Compass riff on Tim Lambesis [photo]. Lambesis, if you’ll recall, is the overtly Christian frontman of the metalcore group As I Lay Dying. He was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly plotting to murder his wife with the help of a contract killer.

7234906_tim lambesis

Unbliever, a fan of this blog, wrote a moderately cheeky description of that news event, and posted it in Reddit’s atheism section. This is it:

Christian hardrocker Tim Lambesis says he writes all songs from his faith’s perspective. Yesterday he got arrested for trying to hire a hitman to kill his wife.

On Wednesday, more than 114,000 Reddit users clicked on those lines and were transported to Moral Compass, helping make the Lambesis murder-for-hire story the most-read article in this site’s three-month-young history. Moral Compass tallied 162,723 page views on Wednesday, also a record.

Unbliever published his description of the Lambesis post in Reddit’s atheism hangout, as I said, but a lot of angry responses were from Christians who felt slighted.

The following numbers indicate how big the controversy was: as I write this, an unprecedented 8,113 Reddit users have “upvoted” the story — similar to clicking “like” on Facebook. On the other hand, 6,499 others hated the story (or Unbliever’s description of it) enough to vote it down. The differential was still impressive enough for the piece to end up on Reddit’s front page. From what I’ve seen, it’s rare for that to happen when the number of negative votes is that high.

Predictably, given those numbers, the Reddit post generated a whale of a discussion (currently almost 1,100 comments and counting) with a lot of the remarks being pretty scathing — not just about Lambesis, but about yours truly and this blog.


Most of the criticism is the result of an apparent misunderstanding (sometimes, several).

Let’s take a quick look at the complaints.

A lot of people took Unbliever’s description as

(1) an unsupported-by-the-facts suggestion that Tim Lambesis intended to kill his wife because he is a Christian; or
(2) a bold and equally unsupported assertion that Christians commit lots of crimes while atheists pretend they‘re exemplary citizens; or
(3) evidence that Unbliever and Moral Compass harbor an obsessive hatred of Christians.
(4) There was also the accusation that we used a tragedy to score a cheap point against religion (while no one got killed, the marriage is over, Lambesis will probably go to jail, and three kids may grow up without their dad).

Point number 1 is silly. No one alleged that Lambesis’ motive had anything to do with his being a Christian. We don’t yet know what his reasons were, and I wouldn’t care to speculate.

Point number 2 is an unwarranted assumption, a bit of manufactured meaning that some people eagerly “read into” Unbliever’s description and my blog post. If it really needs saying, me, I don’t think that Christians are, on the whole, more criminal and less virtuous than atheists. I’ve stated so in the Moral Compass FAQ since day one. I also addressed the question in the second half of this post.

Point number 3, about hating Christians…you know, that one is beginning to sound familiar. This past weekend, someone branded me an islamophobe and a racist because of this post about the world-wide prevalence of violent Islamist ideals. On Monday, I was accused of being an antisemite when I called out some Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn for a selfish stunt that illegally benefited their yeshiva.

Yes, it’s true that I have some serious disdain for pious people who, when they think no one’s looking, violate the values that they insist they hold dear. (More on that in a moment.) But hatred for the religious? I think that might surprise my wife of 19 years, who is a Christian — with a degree in theology, no less. By the way, one of my best friends is an evangelical preacher. And so on. If anyone needs further reassurance — the FAQ is pretty instructive about my feelings toward people of faith.

I’m slightly more sensitive to point number 4, the one about flippantly exploiting a tragedy and scoring cheap points off of it. I get that it seems harsh to mock Lambesis, as I did in my post about him, at a moment when he’s down for the count. Then again — holy shit, the guy tried to hire a contract killer to murder his wife! And let’s not forget: He’s a famous musician, a public person. That means he’s fair game, like O.J. Simpson or Phil Spector. If I wrote about Lambesis a bit coldly and mockingly, I guess it’s because I owe no great respect to a wannabe murderer — much less one who made a career out of singing about his celestial savior.

Some people were appalled that Unbliever used the adjective ‘Christian’ in his title — “Christian hardrocker Tim Lambesis.” But the religious signifier is perfectly on point here. A big reason for As I Lay Dying’s rise to fame is that, for a few years, it was trendy (and good business) in the metal/hardcore scene to be a Christian band. AILD’s Wikipedia page makes much of the group’s Christian identity, as do many of its fans, not to mention the press. Though Lambesis seems to have struggled with his religion in recent times, he also said that he loves Jesus, “the man who told us to love our enemies”; and that he sought to emulate Christ by living a life full of compassion and devoid of selfishness.

Putting a hit out on your wife is hardly the best manifestation of those sacred values.

This goes to the very core of the site you’re now visiting. We too have a “purpose-driven life,” and our purpose here at Moral Compass HQ is to call out the difference between professed religious beliefs and actual behavior.

Very few people seem to have a problem with headlines like

Church Teacher Kills Man in Road Rage Assault
Muslim Preacher Caught in U.K. Child Sex Ring
• Priest Hires Hitman to Kill Teen Accuser
Orthodox NY Jews Won’t Disclose Name of Herpes-Spreading Cleric

If those are perfectly fine, I don’t really see what’s impermissible about

Christian Hardrocker Tim Lambesis Arrested for Trying to Hire a Hitman

The people who charged that it’s no more relevant to use the adjective ‘Christian’ than it would be to use ‘long-haired’ or ‘big-shouldered’ missed the point, and not in small way.

I wonder if they’d muster the same outrage for the following headline, almost identical:

Christianity Today Gleanings_ Christian Musician Arrested for Allegedly Hiring Hitman to Kill Wife

Click to see what publication that’s from.

One thing I learned from this mindbending dust-up is that venue matters. Once Unbliever’s Reddit post, published in the atheism section, received so many upvotes that it automatically got pushed onto the Reddit front page for a general audience, the shit hit the fan. There, Christians — including many who seem to wallow in a hairtrigger persecution complex — misconstrued the meaning of his two-sentence description.

Scores of downvoting commenters were sincere about what they thought was implied. Others, no doubt, chose to “misunderstand,” the better to advance their strawmen arguments.

As Unbliever pointed out in the discussion yesterday,

The number-one question atheists get is “how can you be good without god?” Asked with varying degrees of puzzlement and, often, a hint of condescension.

99% of the people who ask it will never do anything majorly or criminally wrong, and I have no beef with them. They’re ultimately still my brothers and sisters.

It’s the remaining one percent that deserves to be mocked, in public, when they do indefensible stuff like raping little kids; or embezzling money from their church; or trying to have their spouse murdered.

That’s not tarring all members of their religion with the same brush; it’s simply poking fun at the delusional claims by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

That’s exactly how I feel.

[Reddit cartoon via amerika.org; Lambesis photo via gigwise]

Jilting Jezebel

A wicked spirit is leading increasing numbers of pastors to their downfall. That spirit’s name is Jezebel. With her Satanic, slutty, womanly wiles, Jezebel pushes decent, almost defenseless men of God into immorality.

Jennifer LeClair is certain of it, she writes in Charisma News — and certain of the need to battle the threat:

Pastors and others will keeping falling into immorality and idolatry until the church understands the spirit that motivates these sins and refuses to tolerate it any longer. You can’t fight an enemy you can’t see. That’s what Jezebel is counting on.

If her prose in the article seems a little aimless and vague, that may be because LeClair would like you to buy her soon-to-be-released bookThe Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel.

The harpy-fighting manual comes too late for pastors who’ve recently already gone down (as it were) in disgrace — clergymen like David Loveless, Isaac Hunter, Sam Hinn, Jack Schaap, Eddie Long, and others. But it may do wonders for the next generation of holy horndogs, who just might learn to stave off sexual temptation.

We’re afraid that LeClair’s book will be a formidable blow to Moral Compass; most likely, we’ll soon have no more church sex-scandals to write about, and we’ll be reduced to blogging about puppies and kittens.

Any day now.


[image via fanpop]

Rapey Pastor’s Church Reacts to His Arrest With ‘There’s No Evangelism Without Persecution.’

From the Windsor Star:

Police in Brazil say they’ve detained an Evangelical pastor accused of raping six women, including three minors.

Officer Marcio Mendonca Dugubras says Marcos Pereira of the Assembly of God of the Latter Days church was detained late Tuesday in the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Sao Joao de Meriti. He says Pereira is suspected in six rapes.


Rio’s O Globo newspaper reports that one of the alleged victims said she was raped by Pereira from the age of 14 to 22.

Phone calls to the church were not answered, but the church posted a statement on its website saying it is “confident in the actions of God in the life of Marcos Pereira.”

It adds: “The Bible teaches that there is no evangelism without persecution.” [emphasis added]

[image via Eddi Haskell]

I See Dead People. Oh, Also Profits.

She’s not alive, honey,” psychic Sylvia Browne told Louwanna Miller on a national TV show in 2004, referring to Miller’s missing daughter Amanda Berry. “Your daughter’s not the kind who wouldn’t call.”

On the set, Miller broke down in tears. She died in 2005 0r 2006 (accounts differ), from heart failure.

Two days ago, Berry emerged alive from a home in Cleveland where she says she had been kept prisoner for the past ten years.

Browne has done this before.

In 2003, Browne incorrectly told the parents of missing teen Shawn Hornbeck that their son was dead, and his body could be found somewhere near “two jagged boulders,” according to her premonition.

Nearly four years later, Hornbeck was found alive, and Browne was widely criticized in the media for causing the Hornbecks additional grief.

Hat tip: John Henry.

As I Lay In Jail; Christian Rocker Tim Lambesis Tries to Hire a Hitman to Murder His Wife

Good help is hard to find these days, especially if you’re looking for a reliable contract killer. Do you ask the guy for references? Awkward. So you take his suitability for the task on faith. If you’re religious, you might pray on the whole thing a little (the Lord’s heard worse).


“All five of us are Christians,”

said Tim Lambesis of the U.S. metal band As I Lay Dying.


“I believe that change should start with me first, and as a result, our lyrics do not come across very ‘preachy.’ Many of our songs are about life, struggles, mistakes, relationships and other issues that don’t fit entirely in the spiritual category. However, all of these topics are written about through my perspective as a Christian.”

Of course,

“If you truly believe something, then it should affect every area of your life.”

Like your marriage and your family, obviously.

Funny story.

Tim Lambesis, lead singer for the heavy metal band As I Lay Dying, was arrested in California on Tuesday on charges that he sought the help of an undercover detective to have his estranged wife killed, police said. …

Lambesis’ wife, Meggan, filed papers in San Diego Superior Court in September 2012 seeking a dissolution of marriage, according to an online court database.

The couple has three adopted children.

[image via Daily Mail]

Orlando Megachurch Pastors Love the Ladies

According to Miami’s Riptide blog,

There’s a hot new church trend sweeping Orlando’s thriving megachurch scene: pastors sleeping with ladies who aren’t their wives. For the third time in the last six months, a leader of a popular church in Orlando has resigned after admitting to damaging the sanctity of his marriage.

Riptide refers to pastor David Loveless, whose adulterous affair we pinged on Moral Compass two days ago. But wait, there’s more:

Isaac Hunter, leader of the 5,000-member Summit Church, resigned in December amidst a rash of drama in which he admitted to having an affair with a staff member. A month earlier, his wife Rhonda filed a domestic violence injunction claiming that not only was Hunter abusive but also had a drinking and drug problem and was suicidal.

Sam Hinn, an author and pastor in nearby Stanford, Florida, stepped down in January after admitting to an affair with a member of his congregation.

Here’s a song to get the holy horndogs and their girlfriends in the mood.

When Catholics Attack Catholics (Over Condoms)

In Kenya,  Episcopal head honcho John Cardinal Njue is incensed over ads and billboards that proclaim ‘Catholics for Choice: Good Catholics use condoms.’

A group of U.S. Catholics is thought to be behind the campaign. Njue, rather than telling his flock to ignore the ads, wants them withdrawn and banned.


“Catholics for Choice are not Catholics in the sense of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We want those adverts pulled out,” said Cardinal Njue in a statement.

He added that the campaign “deliberately ridicules the church teachings of responsible sexual behavior.”

A colleague of Njue’s, Kenyan Archbishop Zaccheus Okoth, agreed, urging the faithful to give birth instead of using “ungodly means” to control reproduction.


P.S. For a little perspective, I’ll add this. Northern Kenya, especially, suffers from the twin scourge of poverty and over-population. Currently, the country has about 41 million citizens, a number expected to almost double by 2040.

It is estimated that a total of 1.2 million Kenyan children are orphaned by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS; about 80,000 Kenyans a year die from the disease.

Self-Styled Rabbi Treated ‘Possessed’ Children With Suffocation, Burning, Hammers, Knives

Self-styled rabbi and former international fugitive Elior Chen did unspeakable things to young Israeli children he suspected of being possessed by demons.

He wasn’t the only one to suffer sadism-inducing delusions; about a half dozen of his devout followers did too. Together, they abused and tortured eight children who they thought were under Satanic spells.

The abuse was uncovered in 2009, when a child previously under Chen’s care lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital. Once the authorities caught on to the abuse, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel.

Haredi _Rabbi_ Elior Chen sentenced to 24 years in prison for child abuse Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

In February 2011, an Israeli court sentenced Chen to 24 years in prison, but he’s back in court now, insisting he didn’t get a fair trial because his lawyer allegedly had a conflict of interest. Yesterday, the child torturer argued his appeal before the Israeli Supreme Court.

If he does receive a new trial, let’s hope the judge gives him more than 24 years. Consider, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post, precisely what this fine “spiritual mentor” of a Haredi-like Jewish cult did:

Chen and his followers were convicted of abusing young children with hammers, knives and other implements over a period of several months. One child suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the abuse to which he was subjected by his mother and her companions, all under Chen’s orders. He is expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. Chen gave his followers instructions on how to “fix” the children’s behavior, and “cleanse” them of their satanic possession.

The chilling and gruesome child-abuse case included a mother who forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days and letting them out for only brief periods, repeatedly beat, whipped, and shook them, burnt their hands and gave them freezing showers. The abusive mother and the “educators” also poured salt on the burn wounds of one of the children, stuffing his mouth with a skullcap and sealing it with masking tape.

Chen’s disciples had “blind admiration” for him, the court found. Whatever Chen decreed, his followers happily carried out. Their abuse of the children occurred because he commanded it, but Chen wasn’t above doing a little torture himself; the cult leader was convicted in part for having actively participated in the abuse.

Four of Chen’s accomplices were sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years each. The mother of the eight children was sentenced in May 2010. She got five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning, and tying up her brood.

[photo by Daniel Bar-On via Haaretz]