Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence?

The Eclectic Quill‘s got a point.

2U.S. Government Responses to Immortality Claims | The Eclectic Quill

Egyptian Activists: Scrub Religion From ID Cards

Other than for gathering anonymous census data, why would the government ever ask you what religion you are? And if the government issues national ID cards, as it does in many countries, why would your religious affiliation deserve a mandatory mention on that card? What purpose does it serve?

And what would happen if you told nosy bureaucrats to stay out of your business?

That’s the thinking of British-Egyptian journalist and blogger Sarah Carr, who teamed up with a friend, Mohamad Adam, to try to change the official Egyptian conflation of identity and religion. Via the New York Times:

Egyptian activists have begun an online campaign against sectarianism in the wake of a deadly attack on mourners at Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral this month.


To begin the process of disentangling religion and citizenship, the “None of Your Business” campaign, driven by a Facebook group and a YouTube video, urges Egyptian citizens to cover up the section of their national identity cards that states their religion. The group’s Facebook page describes the initiative as “a campaign against interference in citizens’ private lives by the state, and by other citizens. We are for the removal of religion from official documents — the most important of which is the personal ID card — as a small but important step towards ending discrimination on the basis of religion.”

In response, supporters of the campaign have uploaded photographs of their ID cards to social networks with messages along the lines of “my faith is my own business,” obscuring their religions.

Says Carr:

“I couldn’t think of a single use for the religion field; the Egyptian state has a well-documented thirst for bureaucracy and collecting information about its citizens, but there is absolutely no need for it to have this information, which serves no purpose other than giving prejudiced state officials, and anyone else who sees the ID card, the opportunity to give [you] a hard time.”

She would ultimately like ID cards to be abolished altogether, calling them “unnecessary and sinister,” but concedes that’s still a ways off.

“Removing the religion field from ID cards is a symbolic first step towards this. If it ever did happen, it would be a message that the state need not and should not have a role in defining, controlling or exploiting religious identity.”

Hyperbole Watch: ‘Homo-Fascists’ Will Pin ‘Yellow Stars’ on Anti-Gay Christians

Bryan Fischer is the nominally Christian clown ex-pastor who, just weeks ago, compared being gay to robbing banks. While the Westboro Baptist Church is being taking seriously by absolutely no one beyond its few dozen crackpot members, Fischer has adopted a sheen of mass-media respectability by dint of his job as the Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association. He also has his own radio show, Focal Point, on American Family Radio.

Over the weekend, on the airwaves, Fischer told his followers that “homo-fascists” were going to take over and force anti-gay Christians to wear badges — just like the Jews during World War II.


Watch the video here. Homo-fascism allegations start at 1:50; yellow-star comparison starts at 9:03.

Partial transcript:

“If you don’t believe in sodomy-based marriage, if you’re not prepared to endorse and sanction sodomy-based marriage, then … Remember when the Jews in Nazi Germany, they had to wear a yellow Star of David on their sleeve? We’re getting to the point now, that’s what they’re going to make us do. We’re getting to the point where these homofascists are going to force us to wear on our sleeves some kind of identifying marker so that the people can know who the racists and the homophobes and the bigots are.”

The tiresome Christian persecution complex is being driven to new nadirs here.

Dear Mr. Fischer: Three out of four Americans are Christians. More than 90 percent of our members of Congress self-identify as followers of Christ. There is a church on just about every other street corner. Are you really going to tell me that you are being “oppressed” — and now, targeted for genocide! — by a small minority (8 to 10 percent of the population) who are gay?

And do you think perhaps your hyperbole might run counter to recent history when you consider that, like Jews, gay people were actually made to wear “identifying markers” — pink triangles — so that the Nazis could more easily arrest, imprison, starve, and murder them by the tens of thousands?


Just as anti-porn feminists can barely conceal their disappointment every time new rumors about the production of a snuff film turn out to be untrue, evangelical Christians secretly desire nothing so much as for their brethren to be persecuted to within an inch of their lives. I think it’s because that way, they can claim some of the suffering for which they admire their Savior, and prove themselves worthy of him.

In other words (those of PsiCop over at Agnostic Library),

A desire to be persecuted for Jesus is part and parcel of their religion, and it has been almost since its inception. This persecutorial delusion is embedded deep in the psychopathology of Christianity. …

It’s one thing to fantasize about being a martyr because one’s religion is founded on a martyr. It’s quite another to invent persecution that’s not even happening, and to accuse others of doing things they haven’t done.

Quite so.

[top image via may-chang.com; bottom image via unews.com]

Orthodox U.S. Bishop Out in Harassment Scandal

Surprisingly few details are available about the nature of Bishop Matthias’ wrongdoings. The case involves harassing emails and text messages he sent to a female follower, but the church has managed to keep it all under wraps. Apparently, though, the bishop’s misconduct was grave enough that Church authorities forced his ouster.

Unable to overcome the disgrace of a sexual misconduct accusation, Bishop Matthias, head of the local diocese for the Orthodox Church of America, has announced he will step down Monday, leaving a vacancy in Chicago just weeks before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on May 5.

On a leave of absence since allegations of inappropriate communication with a woman surfaced in August, Matthias, 64, would have celebrated his two-year anniversary as leader of the church in Chicago and the Midwest this week. In a letter to parishioners Sunday, the bishop asked for forgiveness. ….


When he was placed on administrative leave last year, Matthias said he had been accused of “unwelcome written and spoken comments to a woman that she regarded as an inappropriate crossing of personal boundaries.”

A national church investigation did conclude that Bishop Matthias had committed sexual harassment.

The accusation also generated an outcry from a number of clergy’s wives in the diocese. About 30 women signed a letter to the Holy Synod expressing concern about the bishop’s behavior.

[image via aoiusa.org]

Church Hires Dick-Biting Priest Who is a Known Ex-Con: Shocked When He Does It Again

For a non-believer, it’s hard to see evidence of God’s hand in anything from angel-shaped clouds to eyeball-eating parasites.

But it’s easy to believe in the magic that the Catholic Church habitually produces when it slaps a priest’s white collar on a convicted sex offender. In such a case, in a manner of seconds, a scum-of-the-earth child molester is transformed into a divinely inspired authority on right and wrong. It truly is miraculous to behold.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

When the Rev. John Anthony Salazar arrived in Tulia, Texas, in 1991, he was warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic community tucked in the Texas Panhandle. What his new parishioners didn’t know was he’d been hired out of a treatment program for pedophile priests — and that he’d been convicted for child molestation and banned from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for life.

The priest turned out to be your typical recidivist.

Over the next 11 years, Salazar would be accused of abusing four more children and young men in Texas, including an 18-year-old parishioner who suffered teeth marks on his genitals.


None of it should have been surprising. In 1987, Salazar had pleaded guilty to one count of oral copulation and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child for molesting two altar boys, ages 13 and 14.

He served three years of a six-year prison term before being sent in 1990 to a residential program in New Mexico that treated pedophile priests. He was also required to register as a sex offender.

One year later, the Diocese of Amarillo hired Salazar and assigned him to a vast, rural parish in the Panhandle while he was still on parole.

The bishop of the Catholic diocese, Leroy Matthiesen of Amarillo, seemed mildly offended when L.A. Cardinal Roger Mahony warned him in writing about the pedophile priest.

“You must think I don’t screen applicants well. I assure you I do, and that I have rejected a number of them,” Matthiesen wrote Mahony in a Jan. 28, 1992, letter contained in Salazar’s archdiocese file. “The Diocese of Amarillo has 38 parish priests and 38,000 registered Catholics. … I am able to keep careful tabs on all our priests.”

The self-regard is staggering. Four fresh Texas victims would soon experience how scrupulous Matthiesen was in “keeping tabs” on Father Salazar.

Matthiesen died in 2010, but in an autobiography he defended his decision to hire molesting priests from the aftercare program, saying they had “repented, paid the price, were rehabilitated, stayed within the boundaries laid out for them.” … “These are the types of priests I accepted into the diocese,” he wrote. “I have no regrets for having done so.”

Although the good bishop was thoroughly informed of Salazar’s background, neither he nor any of his colleagues ever bothered to tell the priest’s parishioners who they were dealing with.

The Church, as has so often been the case, considered itself exempt from the reporting requirements regarding sex offenders, and claims the privilege of dealing with all manner of crimes internally.

No secular justice system can compel it; no accountability is in evidence; and no future victim’s mental and bodily integrity is important enough to change any of it.

4/14 Christians: ‘Grab ’em While They’re Young’

Today is Global 4/14 Day, a Christian, non-denominational initiative to push children as young as four years to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior. The group’s slogan is “One million Christians praying for two billion children.”

The official 4/14 website has a helpful FAQ:

What is the 4/14 Window?

The 4/14 Window refers to all children between the ages of 4 to 14. During this decade or “window,” most children in this demographic develop their moral and spiritual foundations.

Why do mission strategists consider this age group so important?

There are 2.3 billion children on earth under age 15 and they represent the largest unreached people group in the world. Boys and girls in the 4/14 Window are given priority because they are more open and receptive to the gospel than older youth and adults. [emphasis added] Nearly 85% of people who make a decision for Christ, do so between the ages of 4 to 14!

In other words, when they’re young and impressionable, they’ll swallow a helluva lot more than after they begin to think for themselves. At least the spiritual child-grabbers are honest about it.

Though I’m the dad of two rather bright girls, I don’t think that four- or five-year-olds can make significant decisions beyond Curious George or Goodnight Moon, or beyond, say, Cheerios or Frosted Flakes.


But of course I would never begrudge kids who aren’t yet old enough to tie their own shoes the chance to become this:

Previous Moral Compass article on religious child indoctrination here.

[Cartoon by Matthew Inman via The Oatmeal]

Justin Bieber Woos Dead Jewish Girl

We were told earlier this week that Justin Bieber’s “spiritual roots go deep.” The Canadian teen idol was praised extensively by his pastor, Judah Smith, who called him “a spectacular young man.” Smith, who’s been peddling a new book called Jesus Is that, coincidentally, was endorsed by Bieber, says that the two “bond over the Bible” and “share Scriptures on a regular basis.”

That’s sweet.

Bieber’s spirituality was on full display yesterday, when he visited Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House and summed up his reverent thoughts in the guestbook — as follows:

Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.

German fans are awaiting Bieber’s arrival for a concert in Berlin, where he is expected to re-enact John F. Kennedy’s famous speech, “Ich bin ein Belieber.”


Oh, also:

Irish Catholic Madrassas Skimp on Science and PE

The curriculum in Irish schools suggests that educators and the government agree on at least one thing: “Science bad, religion good.”

Elementary-school teachers in Ireland spend double the time on religious instruction that is the global average. (That comparison presumably includes hardcore Islamic madrassas in places like Somalia and Pakistan).

Amazingly enough, that’s mostly the result of Department of Education guidelines that say children must receive 30 minutes of religious instruction a day — two and a half hours a week. Then add church and Sunday school on the weekends, natch.

Even so, more than two-thirds of Irish teachers apparently don’t find that nearly enough, and spend additional minutes or hours on religion, at the expense of science and physical education.


Now, one saner mind is questioning the imbalance.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has questioned the amount of time spent teaching children religion in primary schools at the expense of science and physical education (PE). Department of Education rules require primary schools to devote 30 minutes a day – two-and- a-half-hours a week – to religion, compared with 60 minutes a week for science and PE. A recent Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) survey found over 70 percent of teachers were spending more than the required time on religion. The extra time usually goes on preparing children for sacraments such as First Communion and Confirmation.

Irish primary pupils spend 4 percent of their time on science – half the international average – and 10 percent on religion, more than double the global norm.

[image via coastreflect]

Sister Agnes of Vienna Orgasmed While Dining on the Savior’s Foreskin; a Saint to Many

[Corrected  below]

I hope that some Vatican committee is planning to commemorate, preferably in grand fashion, the upcoming septuacentennial of Saint Agnes Blannbekin’s death.

Frankly, it’s not her death that was exceptional; she died of old age in her convent in Vienna, at 71.

However, her life as a thirteenth-century Bride of Christ — a nun — was nothing short of spectacular. You see, for decades, Agnes had lively hallucinations of being visited by Jesus or another member of the Holy Trinity. Any of these cherished guests inflamed her womanly passions in the most delightful way.

Luckily for us, Agnes’ visions were enthusiastically transcribed by her confessor, the Franciscan monk Ermenrich, and it is from his notes that we can see why Catholics became so smitten with her. Talk about loving Jesus!

In one recurring vision, Agnes felt the foreskin of the Savior in her mouth.


Crying and with compassion, she began to think about the foreskin of Christ, where it may be located [after the Resurrection]. And behold, soon she felt with the greatest sweetness on her tongue a little piece of skin alike the skin in an egg, which she swallowed. After she had swallowed it, she again felt the little skin on her tongue with sweetness as before, and again she swallowed it. And this happened to her about a hundred times. And when she felt it so frequently, she was tempted to touch it with her finger. And when she wanted to do so, that little skin went down her throat on its own. And it was told to her that the foreskin was resurrected with the Lord on the day of resurrection. And so great was the sweetness of tasting that little skin that she felt in all [her] limbs and parts of the limbs a sweet transformation.

If Sister Agnes got thirsty, a “refreshing spiritual drink” from the spear wound of Jesus was just a vision away. Many of her hallucinations involved her delicate sense of touch; other than feeling the Holy Prepuce on her tongue, she also claimed she could sometimes sense being kissed on the cheeks by the Lamb of God.

But nothing beat the visitations from the Lord (or the Lord Jesus). Ermenrich must have been fanning himself when he scribbled what the nun told him:

Agnes was filled with an excitement in her chest every time that God visited her that was so intense that it went through her body and that it burned as a result, not in a painful but in a most pleasurable manner.

Hawt, right?

Now, I know the Catholic Church has a reputation as an irredeemably misogynistic institution, but that could change if the padres play their cards right. What they ought to do is market the hell out of the Saint Agnes septuacentennial, such that, with any luck, spinsters and dissatisfied housewives all over the world will want to join the faith, sighing, “I’ll have what she’s having.”


CORRECTION: The original headline on this post stated that Sister Agnes had been canonized (made a saint) by the Church. Although there are many online and printed references to her as “Saint Agnes,” it’s been brought to my attention that throngs of believers have often proclaimed their own Saints (who could become very popular) without the Vatican’s sign-off.  This was most likely the case with Agnes Blannekin.

As is pointed out on the “Holy Prepuce” Wikipedia page I linked to right after the first quote, the Roman Catholic Church got so sick of (and embarrassed by) all the theological snipping sniping over which of Christ’s many foreskins was the genuine article, that it ruled in 1900 that

anyone thenceforward writing or speaking of the Holy Prepuce would be excommunicated. In 1954, after much debate, the punishment was changed to the harsher degree of excommunication, vitandi (shunned).

I have to concede — with apologies for my earlier error — that it seems unlikely that the Catholic Church will commemorate the Viennese foreskin-muncher any time soon. A terrible pity, that.

[illustration by Milo Manara via the Holy Prepuce]

Any Music You Want, As Long As It’s Organ Music

Elderly people with end-stage liver cancer have few things to look forward to. However, Heidemarie G., who is planning her own memorial service in Germany, would love it if, during the remembrance, the church played the song “Aber die Liebe bleibt” (But Love Remains) by popular balladeer Nana Mouskouri.


Pastor Stephan Thieme-Benox has denied the dying woman’s wish, because he has a rule: recorded music is not allowed in his church. He did magnanimously offer to have the song played on the church organ.

Heidemarie G. is “disappointed and angry,” reports the Bild newspaper (link in German).

[image via wikimedia]

Man With Axe Targets Indy Planned Parenthood

Christian terrorist vandal apprehended.

A man told police his religious beliefs led him to break into and damage a Planned Parenthood facility in Monroe County [Indiana] using an axe early Thursday morning, officials said. Bloomington police arrested Benjamin Curell, 27, of Ellettsville, on felony charges of burglary and criminal mischief.


Police were called to a report of a man trying to break into the building at 421 S. College Ave. just before 4 a.m. When officers arrived, they said they found Curell in the building carrying an axe and that “extensive damage had been done to the building and office equipment with the axe,” Bloomington police Capt. Joe Qualters said.

Red paint had also been splashed onto the building, police said.

Planned Parenthood is frequently the target of threats and violence.

• Last year, a Wisconsin branch was bombed.
• In 2011, a molotov cocktail ignited a fire at a Planned Parenthood in Texas.
• In 2010, a Planned Parenthood was firebombed in Madera, California.
• Also in 2010, a self-described “extremist, radical” and “Christian counterpart of Osama bin Laden” planned the bombing of an abortion clinic in North Carolina. The FBI arrested and charged him.

And that’s just a smattering of cases. Here’s a more complete list of violent Christian crimes against providers of legal reproductive services including abortion. It’s as long as my arm.

Michael Jackson to Erect 60-Foot Cross

No, sadly, not that Michael Jackson:

A Janesville [Wisconsin] church plans to erect a 60-foot lighted steel cross where it will be visible from the freeway, a decision in which the city has little input. The New Life Assembly of God Church plans to begin construction on the $60,000 cross by the end of the month, said the Rev. Michael Jackson, pastor at New Life. “We want New Life to be known as the ‘Church of the Cross,'” he told The Janesville Gazette. …

Church members considered erecting a 100-foot cross but decided that would be too ostentatious, Jackson said.

The million-dollar cross in Effingham, IL

The million-dollar cross in Effingham, IL

He added that he expects “a certain element in the community” to ask why the church doesn’t just use the money to feed the poor. We’re happy to step up to the plate:

“Reverend Jackson, why doesn’t the church use the money to feed the poor?”

New Life already gives “tens of thousands of dollars” to a food pantry and other charitable efforts, Jackson said.

Ah. But Reverend, let’s say that the Messiah directed you to spend a small fortune in furtherance of the values that he is said to have espoused and practiced. Which do you think is more likely: that he would want you to feed the hungry and clothe the poor, per Matthew 25:37-40; or that he would prefer a giant illuminated replica of the torture instrument upon which he was nailed to death?

We’re not god experts by any stretch, so we thought we’d ask.


Gentle reader: If you’re chagrined that Reverend Jackson and his congregation didn’t pick the “ostentatious” 100-feet-tall version of the cross, don’t despair. Just drive south a ways until you hit Effingham, Illinois; and there, towering over everything, is a 197-feet-tall cross [see photo] that cost over one million dollars to build.

197 feet still too puny for you? The Branson Cross in Missouri, currently under construction, is going to be three feet taller, but at a price: five million dollars.

To honor the man who reminded his followers about the poor his whole life, that’s literally a steal.