August Was a Great Month For God and His Son Appearing in Clouds … and on a Moth

A little roundup:

God’s face appeared in a cloud over a soon-to-be-demolished drive-in movie theater that was showing (this gives me chills, people!) God’s Not Dead. He’s perched over the girl’s left shoulder, looking like the product of a supernatural tryst between a drunk Dionysus and Charles Darwin.

Fiona Finn, writing for the Huffington Post in one of its finest pieces of journalism to date, believes the following picture — supposedly, that’s the Almighty and an archangel in clouds over Cape Coral, Florida — is “proof that God is speaking to all of us.”

Inexplicably, God has an amputated hand in that image, but relief set in when an English believer found the missing body part protruding from the heavens over Kent:

(Is this the hand of God? asked the Express. To which Argentinian soccer fans can confidently say, No, but this is.)

Finally, the Carpenter’s Son Himself showed up on the wings of a moth, at least according to Yvonne Esquilin, a Jesus fan in Texas.

To the untrained eye, the pattern might look like a youthful Gandalf or Merlin (with a yarmulke, no less), but Esquilin believes that the appearance of the “Jesus moth” is too uncanny to be coincidental, as

… she had recently been asking God to help her find a way to continue assisting her daughter with her schooling.

So God sent a moth rather than, say, a tutor. Or a few thousand bucks.

Mysterious ways indeed.

Pastor Defrauded Social Security For $150K

Screwing taxpayers out of $150,000? For more than 11 years, it was all in a day’s work for Pastor Pennell.

A former Brunswick [Maine] pastor waived indictment and pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to theft of government money.

Carroll Freemont Pennell, 69, of Cushing, Texas, admitted that he lied about the income he received from the Word of God Fellowship Church to continue receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. He also admitted that he instructed the church board to pay his wife, Glenna Pennell, the pastor’s salary.


In addition to theft of government money, Pennell was charged in August with conspiracy to commit Social Security fraud. He never entered a plea to the conspiracy charge because he was never indicted by a federal grand jury on that charge. The conspiracy charge is expected to be dropped when Pennell is sentenced. …

By pleading guilty to theft of government money, Pennell admitted that he received nearly $150,000 in illegal benefits between February 1999 and August 2010 when he converted to Social Security retirement benefits.

He could be looking at ten years in prison plus a quarter-million-dollar fine.

Pastor Swindles Home Depot Out of $111,000

I’ll let this story speak for itself:

A Queens man working at the Elmont (NY) Home Depot has been charged with using the company’s donation-matching program and a religious charity organization he controlled to steal in excess of $111,000 for his personal use.

A wooden cross over a stack of money with the words in god we trust besides it.

Alfred Williams, 57, was arrested by the Nassau County Police Department’s Crimes Against Property Squad as the result of a joint investigation with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and Home Depot investigators.

He was arraigned on a sealed grand jury indictment, and charged with second degree grand larceny, second degree attempted grand larceny, two counts of first degree identity theft. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five to 15 years in prison.

Williams … is the pastor and president of a small religious organization named “Faith Without Walls International Ministries” (FWW), which he registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004.

Meth and Bible Madness Lead to Fatal Exorcism; Killer Sentenced to Six Years in Prison

A Bible-besotted meth-head, Karla Kuhl, 36, was sentenced to just six year in prison for murdering a 68-year-old acquaintance, Patricia Medeiros, in what Kuhl claims was an exorcism brought on by religious mania.

A short time after her arrival, Kuhl got into an argument with Medeiros, then went into a bedroom to smoke meth with her boyfriend. …

Later, the defendant and victim argued again, but witnesses at the home said they heard Patricia’s voice become muffled toward the end of the squabble.


Kuhl’s boyfriend and Medeiros’s nephew, who also lived at the house, called police after finding the victim’s lifeless body on the living room couch covered by a blanket, a kitchen chair, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a bible.

Meanwhile, Kuhl fled, driving to a nearby church where she disrobed and doused herself in holy water, the prosecutor said.

Police located her later that day at her El Sobrante apartment where she gave an hours-long, drug-fueled confession in which she claimed she had performed an exorcism on Medeiros to rid her of “evil spirits,” O’Connell said. …

An autopsy found that the victim died of blunt force trauma and asphyxiation.

Meth and ________ (fill in the blank) don’t go well together, but combine meth with the drug that is religion and some bad shit’s gonna go down.

Christian Trisha Paytas Contemplates Whether Dogs Are Mammals … and Have Brains

I’m reckoning with the possibility that this video is a giant windup. Then again, how would we know? It’s not like U.S. Christians are known for their firm grasp of basic biology.

It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite part, but I think it’s where she theorizes that she’s afraid of dogs because her “Christian intuition” is telling her that canines aren’t really God’s creatures.

My 11-year-old daughter responded to that without missing a beat: “Someone should tell her that dog is god spelled backwards.”

Anyway, watch and weep:

Missouri Pastor Cuckolds and Murders His Best Friend, Then Delivers His Stirring Eulogy

ABC News has the story of the sweet, sweet love that blossomed between Pastor David Love (pictured right) and Teresa Stone, a woman in his flock at the New Hope Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri.

There was just one little problem: Stone was married to Randy (pictured left), an insurance entrepreneur, with whom she had two kids. He thought she loved him, as he did her. A friend of the husband recalls that “[Randy] worshipped Teresa — she meant everything to him.”

Oh well. The heart wants what the heart wants. So Teresa and her secret beau plotted Randy Stone’s murder — any qualms assuaged by a tidy life-insurance payout that would soon fall into their lovin’ laps.

I guess they weren’t smart enough to try to make it look like an accident or a robbery. One night, the ordained man of God simply entered Randy’s office and shot him dead with the former Marine’s own handgun, which Teresa had given him access to.

Except for Randy Stone’s life, nothing was taken.

Oh, did I mention that Pastor Love was not just Randy and Teresa’s spiritual advisor, but also Randy’s best friend?

In both of those capacities, Love delivered a stirring eulogy at Randy’s funeral.

“We weep not just because of the separation of our loved one but because of the questions that death brings. Questions like why, why him? Why now?

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The charade ended soon after police found a handwritten love letter in Teresa’s trash, and began questioning her. The note said, in part,

“Happy Birthday Love. I am not in control of things yet but when we are fully together your birthday will always be exciting.”

It didn’t take the detectives long to determine that the letter had been written by David Love.

At trial, where the truth came out, the deadly couple were sentenced to prison. Love is now serving life (though he’ll be eligible for parole in 2036); Stone, who’d betrayed her lover just as she had her husband of almost two decades, testified against Love, and pleabargained her way to a term of just eight years.

ABC notes that

The church has a new pastor that the community has embraced and together they’re hoping to make new memories, no longer defined by Pastor Love’s mistakes.

His mistakes. That’s an interesting way of putting it. Do you think that if an atheist had committed cold-blooded murder, the media would be talking about “mistakes”? Such are the perks of being a God-man.

And remarkably, a God-man is still what Pastor Love claims to be. You see, he’s reinvented himself as prison preacher. He now leads large Bible-study groups, and teaches sinners the finer points of morality.

The Lord, mysterious ways — you know the drill.

[published earlier at the Friendly Atheist]

The Upstairs Lounge Gay Massacre Remembered — And Then Some

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the biggest LGBT massacre in U.S. history. The horrendous fire that tore through the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar in New Orleans, also claimed the lives of 32 patrons, including that of Bill Larson, the pastor of the city’s first fledgling gay church.

For me, this photo started my interest in the crime.


That’s Larson. He got stuck in the safety bars on the windows and burned alive while horrified passersby looked on. It’s one of the most indelible news pictures I’ve ever seen. It made me want to learn all there is to know about the crime.

Oddly enough, that wasn’t so simple. There wasn’t nearly as much written about the fire as you might expect considering the brutality of the attack and the large number of victims. Why? In large part because it happened in 1973, when gay people were still widely considered icky at best and god-mocking evildoers at worst. It seems for all the world that the news media, by and large, thought it better to pretend that gays don’t exist; and that journalists and politicians expressed their disapproval through silence. Consider:

The few respectable news organizations that deigned to cover the tragedy made little of the fact that the majority of the victims had been gay, while talk-radio hosts tended to take a jocular or sneering tone: What do we bury them in? Fruit jars, sniggered one, on the air, only a day after the massacre.

Other, smaller disasters resulted in City Hall press conferences, or statements of condolence by the governor; but no civil authorities publicly spoke out about the fire, other than to mumble about needed improvements to the city’s fire code.

Continuing this pattern of neglect, the New Orleans police department appeared lackluster about the investigation (the officers involved denied it). The detectives wouldn’t even acknowledge that it was an arson case, saying the cause of the fire was of “undetermined origin.” No one was ever charged with the crime

That’s from the piece I wrote about the arson for The Friendly Atheist, here.

Point of clarification: the fire may not have been a hate crime, and we shouldn’t jump to that conclusion. The most likely suspect was a frequent visitor to the Upstairs Lounge, a man with mental issues called Rodger Nunez, who may have been gay himself. There’s a persistent rumor that he was asked to leave the bar — and came back to exact a terrible revenge. We’ll never know; Nunez killed himself a year later.

Anyway, I put the topic on my calendar months ago, for publication on June 24, expecting it to draw little interest. I couldn’t see major news media covering it.

Happily, I was wrong. As of today, Google confirms, there’s easily three times the volume of coverage there was a few months ago. Time magazine, this week, has a pretty solid feature piece on the catastrophe. A new documentary film about the Upstairs Lounge, by the movie maker Royd Anderson,  just premiered. A news team at the New Orleans Times-Picayune produced both a written remembrance and a video piece. I was interviewed about my own story yesterday by a Washington DC radio host who has an audience all over the Northeastern U.S.

And … I just learned that my piece drew the highest number of page views I’ve yet garnered in my so-called blogging career — somewhere north of 250,000 (a quarter of a million) hits.

That’s wonderful. The horror of that day, and the stupid prejudice with which the gay victims were treated even in death, deserves to be remembered.

Terry’s Posts on the Friendly Atheist

In case you missed these, I thought I’d bring you up to snuff on the articles I’ve published at the Friendly Atheist over the past week.

• Anti-Gay Mormon Activists Confront Their Prejudice After Learning Their Own Son is Gay.

• Gimme That Old-Time Religion: A Growing Number of Greeks Bow To Zeus, Apollo, and Hera.


• City of Evansville Approves Downtown Public ‘Art Exhibit’ of 30 Decorated Crosses.

• Archbishop Says Tax Avoidance is Sinful. If Only Someone Would Remind the Churches.

• Insane in the Brain: A Rare Video of Mass Murderer Jim Jones Preaching.

• Court Strikes Down New Hampshire’s Tax-Money-For-Religious-Schools Law.

• Infectious Diseases Strike Communities Where Vaccinations Are ‘Anti-God’.

• Free Parking for the Religious in This British Town, but Atheists Are Out of Luck.

• Why We Must Reject Special Treatment for Religious Employees.

Slut Shaming of the Third Kind

A group of self-styled modesty enforcers in Kenya attacked a women for wearing a skirt that they deemed too short; and to show their horror of female flesh, they forcibly stripped her naked and ripped up every last bit of clothing she was wearing.

The men attacked the woman claiming that she was dressed inappropriately. The woman was spotted walking on the street in Kitengela, a town in Kenya.


The angry mob claimed the dress was too short. They argued with the woman to change into something more appropriate. When the woman ignored their request the men attacked her and undressed her.

The men then ripped her clothing apart so she could not put them back on, claiming that “it was better for her to go naked because her intentions were clear,” according to press reports in Kenya. …

“Most women in the town of Kitengela dress modestly, and everyone is expected to adhere to their standards,” [said witness] Aminah Wangai.

The reports do not specify the religion of the attackers, but don’t point your finger at the usual suspects just yet. Kenya is overwhelmingly Christian  — appr. 83% of the population — and only 11 percent Muslim.

[image via Glogster]

Breaking: Bombs Go Off at Boston Marathon; 3 Killed, 100 or More Injured; Perps Unknown

No known religious connection yet. “There were no credible threats before the race, a state government official said.” But if you were a betting man or woman, what would you bet?

2 killed, dozens injured in Boston Marathon bombing – This Just In - Blogs


Two bombs struck near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, turning a celebration into a bloody scene of destruction. The blasts threw people to the ground, killing two and injuring dozens. The Boston Globe reported that at least 90 people were being treated at area hospital.

They were about 50 to 100 yards apart, officials said. “It felt like a huge cannon,” a witness told CNN about one of the

Photos from the scene showed people being carried away on stretchers. One man in a wheelchair had blood all over his face and legs. The bombs shook buildings, sending people to seek shelter under tables, witnesses said.

The Atlantic has large photos, including one very graphic one of a man with his leg or legs blown of. Proceed at your own risk.

ABC News describes

a terrifying scene of shattered glass, billowing smoke, bloodstained pavement and severed limbs, authorities said. A senior U.S. intelligence official said two other explosive devices were found near the end of the 26.2-mile course. At the White House, President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will “feel the full weight of justice.”

Also: Westboro Baptist Church has already expressed its glee over the deaths, and is promising to picket the funerals.

[image via CNN blogs]