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)

Dispatches From the Wacky World of Religion

A dozen links for your entertainment:

1. A Grand Rapids pastor who was involved in a 2010 car loan scam now faces federal charges for allegedly tricking a bank into giving him a $150,000 loan.

2. A Houston pastor asked his congregation to tithe $50,000 so that he can purchase replacement blades for the church’s helicopter. He promised the Lord’s blessings in return, including “a car of your choice.”

3. The Church of Scientology allegedly secretly recorded, with a hidden video camera and microphones, “audits” (akin to confessions) of celebrity member Tom Cruise.

4. Christian columnist: “Blessed are you when you get persecuted and stoned to death, because you know Jesus (and the truth).” She’s also not too worried about people who are starving: “Even if they starve to death … they’re blessed because they’ll be with Jesus and never hunger again in the next life.”


5. Nanny alert: Owners of a Princeton, NJ wine and liquor store say they are being forced out of business after 16 years because their landlord, a local church, doesn’t want a liquor business in its building.

6. Thanks for nothing: Catholic bishop says a lesbian woman may get married to a gay man.

7. Jake Alexander Garcia, a church youth leader who solicited sexually explicit photos from a 12-year-old in his group, was sentenced to just six months in jail.

8. An anti-discrimination bill protecting transgendered people makes pastor Mike Fox mad. He thinks it’s a sex-perversion scheme concocted by transsexuals to gain access to all locker rooms.

9. By getting on their knees, one million Christian women seek to help a million men shed their porn addiction.

10. Pastor Brian Williams admitted to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old victim during counseling sessions at his church. He’s behind bars for nine years, and the church has to pay $3.6 million for not adequately supervising him.

11. Over a four-year span, a pastor and semi-famous gospel singer, who’s also a father of four, sexually assaulted three schoolgirls when he stayed overnight at their homes. The reverend Paul Gardner raped the girls when they were 7, 9, and 14.

12. The imams of Sacramento’s two biggest mosques have declared that music is not permissible in Islam. “It’s a chain reaction – when people listen to music, they ask for alcohol, which will lead to adultery,” explained imam Mahmoud Abdel.

[image via freethoughtpedia]

Video Roundup: What Religion Has Done For (To?) the World This Month

The latest video compilation from Conversation With A.

U.S. Immigration Officials to Candidate Citizen: ‘Your Agnosticism Is a Big Problem’

Margaret Doughty, 64, hails from the U.K., but she’s lived in the United States for more than 30 years. Doughty is a well-known consultant on literacy projects who, from Baton Rouge to Oklahoma City, has led countless people on the path to proficiency in English. Many of those people are immigrants and recent citizens. Her clients have included the city of Los Angeles and the U.S. Department of Education.


When Doughty recently decided to acquire U.S. citizenship herself, she had no reason to think it would be a hard slog.

“I have worked hard to fight for the rights of others, and change laws and systems to do a small part in building a better nation. That sounds like what a citizen should do,” she told me today. “So I decided to apply, not thinking at the time that it would turn out to be such a complicated issue.”

The reason her application stands a good chance of being denied is that Margaret Doughty is not religious.

Why would that matter?

Well, the topic of her religiosity came up when an USCIS official asked Doughty to confirm that, when asked, she would take up arms in defense of the United States. Doughty, who had just been made to swear an oath to tell the truth (as is customary with citizenship applications), felt honor-bound to answer the question…truthfully. She responded that she would be unfailingly loyal to the United States, but that her conscience doesn’t allow her to inflict violence on another person.

The immigration agent explained that the question, in Doughty’s case, was pretty much academic. The United States does not put sexagenarians on the front lines. Doughty, however, felt helpless to change her answer, and the agent told her that was going to be a problem, claiming that the USCIS recognizes only religiously-motivated objectors (Doughty isn’t religious; she identifies as an agnostic).

The official wasn’t kidding. Doughty received the following letter from the USCIS’ Houston office, telling her it must receive


It’s a useless demand, as the USCIS already knows full well Doughty doesn’t belong to a “congregation” and thus cannot produce a letter written by “two church elders.”

To add insult to injury, USCIS is demanding that Doughty responds with the requested document by June 21 — “failure to do so may result in the denial of your application.”

Doughty is appealing to her Congressman, Blake Farenthold, for help with her case, and has been heartened by a letter written by Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel, who let the USCIS know in no uncertain terms that the law is not on the agency’s side. Wrote Seidel:

Either the officers in Houston are inept, or they are deliberately discriminating against nonreligious applicants for naturalization.

Seidel, however, cannot act as Doughty’s attorney, and the applicant has a call in to a local immigration lawyer who might.

As an agnostic American myself, as well as a first-generation immigrant, I hope that Doughty’s argument will prevail. “The USCIS should recognize conscientious objection on both religious and moral grounds,” she believes.

Giving religious applicants a benefit that is withheld from non-religious ones would be hostile to bedrock American ideals. It’s a sign of Margaret Doughty’s worthiness as a future American that she not only understands this, but is willing to fight for the point.

At the same time, it is surely an embarrassment for the USCIS that a non-citizen immigrant should have to educate the agency on what our country truly stands for.

Quote of the Day (Yep, It’s a Tie)

“Being an atheist is awful because you’re damning your soul to hell, which is just like suicide. It’s a very selfish thing to put your family through. But it’s also worse than suicide because you are forcing your loved ones to watch you walk around knowing that you’re dead inside and damned.” [source]

Quote of the Day

From David Hayward, a.k.a. the Naked Pastor:

“I know some nice atheists. I know some not so nice atheists. I know some nice Christians. I know some not so nice Christians. But, in my opinion and experience, the worst not so nice people are the Christian ones because they use their religion to veil and even justify their not so niceness. There’s nothing uglier than that.”

Russia To Outlaw Religious Jokes, Mockery

Next, Siberian gulags for sharp-tongued atheists?

Russia’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved a bill that would make insulting religious believers’ feelings a criminal offense, punishable by up to three years behind bars.

The controversial bill, submitted to the State Duma in late September, was backed by 308 lawmakers and opposed by just two.

For Fear of Muslim Violence, Oz University Bans Satirical Infographic from Student Paper

Here’s an anonymously supplied copy of the graphic that just became the flashpoint of a censorship case at Australian National University.

Australian University Bans Satirical Piece on Islam from Student Paper, Citing Likelihood of Religious Violence

The preëmptive capitulation by the university, which banned the graphic for fear that some Muslims somewhere might get violent, is outrageous. I have the details in my story for the Friendly Atheist.

I’ve Started Co-Blogging at The Friendly Atheist

Hemant Mehta, who runs The Friendly Atheist and achieved some well-deserved fame for his delightful book I Sold My Soul on eBay, recently asked me if I would contribute frequent posts to his site. I like TFA (and Hemant) a lot, so it was easy to say yes.


There are some religion-related topics I’d like to tackle that fall outside the Moral Compass scope, so I welcome the chance to go beyond compiling the terrible things that clergy members and other believers are capable of.

It’s not an exclusive arrangement — I’ll still be taking care of Moral Compass as before, with unreduced gusto.

My first three pieces are up at The Friendly Atheist:

• Ray Comfort Must Think Lying For Jesus is OK

• Remember When Penn Jillette Was the One Dishing Out Backhanded Compliments to Christians?

• Bible Inspires Ordinary Christians to Raise the Dead, Just Like Jesus. Are You Ready For the Zombie Apocalypse?

If you like The Friendly Atheist site, put it on your reading menu. See you there — and here!

‘Annihilate Atheists,’ Turkish Politician Proposes

A senior member of the Turkish AKP party — that’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s club — called for the mass murder of non-believers on Tuesday.

An official from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sparked controversy after he called for the “annihilation of atheists” on his Twitter account.


Mahmut Macit [photo], a senior member of AKP’s Ankara provincial board and keen user of social media, flared up on May 21 about insults against believers via Twitter. “My blood boils when spineless psychopaths pretending to be atheists swear at my religion. These people, who have been raped, should be annihilated,” Macit wrote in one tweet.

For years now, Turkey has been backsliding from secular democracy to Islamic theocracy. Sounds like the would-be mullahs are getting more aggressive; see also here.

Thanks, Religion.

ConversationWithA compiles another bi-monthly roundup of maddening news from the world of religion.

How many acts of mental degradation and moral bankruptcy can you cram into eight minutes? Watch and find out.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Via Gamma Atheist.

Happy Mothers Day | Gamma Atheist