Category Archives: Religion

You’re driving along and come upon this

The Bahá’í House of Worship (or Bahá’í Temple) in Wilmette, Illinois. One of eight dedicated temples of the Bahá’í Faith, it is the oldest surviving Bahá’í House of Worship in the world, and the only one in the United States.

It’s just stunning as you drive along the street in Wilmette and this comes into view totally unexpected.

Web site here

 

 

Praise Him and pass the ammunition

Suffer the little children to come unto me. With bulletproof vests.

You cannot reason with religious fundamentalists

paris jefferly.com Islamic State ISIS ISIL
A survivor of the massacre at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris by Islamic fundamentalists.

The Atlantic has a very good piece up about Islamic State:

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq.

Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Good writing that goes beyond the simple to lead us (or me, at least) to one conclusion, although this article does not state it this directly: the problem is not Islam. The problem — and it is causing problems ranging from terrorism a world away to America’s own issues with homegrown Christian terrorists — is religious fundamentalism. It is also at the root of the current American inability to govern itself because so many Christian fundamentalists are essentially opposed to a representative democracy where their religion and votes count only insofar as they can martial the like-minded into a voting booth.

If you believe society and the world are going to end and all non-believers will be destroyed, it matters not if you are a Christian or Muslim. All that matters is your beliefs and all other considerations are not open to rational debate.

The names Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph should be mentioned to anyone who claims this is solely an Islamic problem. Just as with the Muslim far right, the Christian far right openly preaches armed insurrection and all manner of violent upheaval in the U.S.

As for what to do about all these young, impressionable homegrown and overseas terrorists, who knows what is the right direction into which we must head?

It’s so complicated. I suppose all we can really do is try to understand why young people are drawn to these ideologies and attempt to prevent them from being recruited in the first place.

Source: What ISIS Really Wants – The Atlantic

Kim Davis has lost Fox News. Time to pack it up.

Fox News
Clerk Kim Davis creates a Kentucky theocracy: Darcy cartoon. From Cleveland.com.

File under: things you never expect to see on Fox News:

A panel of legal experts on Fox News came to the conclusion on Monday that Kim Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver, was “ridiculously stupid” for asserting that the Supreme Court did not have constitutional authority to strike down same-sex marriage bans.

On Monday’s edition of Happening Now, trial attorney Chip Merlin pointed out that anyone who violates a judge’s order should “expect to be thrown in jail.”

“She can still practice her faith,” Fox News host Gregg Jarrett noted.

“Just not on the job in a way that interferes with the legal rights of the citizens she serves. And in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court said so nine years ago.”

“She’s a hypocrite,” criminal defense attorney Sharon Liko agreed. “She’s applying for the job of a martyr. She wants to practice her faith by not issuing marriage licenses. Yet, she will not agree to let the deputy county clerks issue marriage licenses even if it’s okay with their faith.”

That’s it. Game over.

This sort of total diversion from the conventional wisdom bouncing around the right-wing media echo chamber does not happen on Fox News without someone somewhere making a decision to allow it to happen.

I have no special inside information telling me this, but I will guess that cooler heads inside of Fox News realized that, just as the person on their TV program observed, if you open the door up to one person disobeying the law (plus that person’s oath of office) because of their religious beliefs, you will open the entire governmental process up to people who don’t want do something because someplace in the Bible or Torah or Koran tells them not to do it. 

And as we all know from experience, there are a lot of things in religious writings that would cause havoc for a great many people in modern society.

Get ready to live like the Amish, everyone.

Think of all the many things that the Bible prohibits that most scholars have agreed do not apply to modern life because they were written so long ago in a different time culturally. 

For example, there would be an awful lot of you out there married to your first spouse for the rest of your life if that were allowed to happen because the Bible is clear about divorce.

And if that doesn’t give you chills, nothing else will.

Source: Fox News panel concludes that Kim Davis’ lawyer is ‘ridiculously stupid’

My political crush on Pope Francis

Pope Francis ABC News Jefferly.com
During the Pope’s broadcast, which was moderated by ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir on Monday, the pontiff spoke for nearly an hour via satellite from the Vatican with individuals from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border, and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

I never expected this to happen. At least in my lifetime.

Fascination. With a Pope.

Other popes have failed miserably in getting my attention. I have always been a critic. An unrelenting one.

Not because I am Catholic, but because I spent so much time interviewing and befriending LGBT Catholics just after I moved to Boston from the American Midwest. I soon realized how much emotional damage had been done to so many of these poor souls in their formative years by clergy obsessed with genitalia and sin rather than redemption and good works. 

But Pope Francis has turned me into convert.

(No, not THAT kind of convert. A socio-political convert.)

Did you watch the ABC News interview with Pope Francis with gaydar pinging anchor David Muir?

The network described the event this way:

Pope Francis had a piece of advice for the Americans he spoke to during a virtual audience hosted by ABC News: “Be courageous.”

During the event, which was moderated by ABC News’ “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir on Monday, the pontiff spoke for nearly an hour via satellite from the Vatican with individuals from the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s inner city, congregants from Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, located near the U.S.-Mexico border, and homeless men and women and those working with the homeless in Los Angeles.

The three locations were selected by ABC News because they are in parts of the country that Pope Francis will not be visiting during his historic trip to the United States, later this month.

The selected speakers, which included an undocumented teenager who had lost a soccer scholarship to college and a homeless mother of two, were all people who had struggled with adversity. The speakers were told beforehand they would get to share their story with his Holiness. 

Pope Francis
Pope Francis washes the feet at the Don Gnocchi Foundation Center in Rome, Thursday, April 17, 2014. The Pontiff has washed the feet of 12 elderly and disabled people — women and Muslims among them — in a pre-Easter ritual that scandalized many Vatican insiders and enraged some conservatives. Francis’ 2013 decision to perform the Maundy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center just two weeks after his election helped define his rule-breaking papacy. (Photo: L’Osservatore Romano.)

Unlike previous Popes, when this one told them to “be courageous” he wasn’t speaking to right-wingers trying to block abortion clinics or bishops trying to silence progressive American nuns for taking stances on social justice issues

Instead it was — let’s see, how to put this? … it was, you know, Jesus-type issues.

The things you imagine Jesus Christ the person might have talked about in his earthly lifetime if he lived now and crashed the Republican National Convention, commandeered the podium from Ted Cruz, and informed every money-grubbing hater in the audience that they had it all exactly oppositely wrong about what makes Jesus happy and what makes Jesus sad.

 And. by the way, they are all going to be sentenced when they die to an indefinite number of years back on Earth, in limbo, serving loving two-parent families headed by disabled black lesbians with Spanish surnames.

Media-Savvy And Willing To Use It

The Pope spoke on ABC via satellite to:

  • Immigrant children who told harrowing stories of dangerous journeys in hope of a better life.
  • He spoke to homeless people as if they were humans and not inconvenient outcasts to be swept out of public view.
  • He comforted and encouraged a teenage Latino boy caring for his disabled father and siblings while that boy postpones his dream of attending college.
  • Finally he unexpectedly called out of the audience a shocked but teary-eyed progressive nun who had assisted some of the people in the audience to thank her personally for her work with the people America’s right-wing despises most: immigrants, the homeless and the poor. 

It was touching and uplifting, despite being so sad in parts.

And it must’ve been making the inside of wingnut heads across the country feel full of angry hornets.

Previous Popes reprimanded activist American nuns rather than congratulate them on live national TV and say, with a smile, “I love you!”

The hatred wingnuts are now spewing toward Pope Francis in the wake of all this uplifting Christian love has been remarkably vitriolic, vile and even scarier than that which has come before.

Wingnuttia is terrified of this Pope. As well it  should be.

They can see he is the perfect foil toward their hijacking of religion. They are so desperate they are trying to paint Francis as being not Christian enough. 

Got that? Pope Francis fails to meet Wingnuttia’s low bar for being a Christian. You know they are desperately bigoted and grasping at straws when they try to fan people’s fears and ignorance with that argument. I wonder how Catholics will feel about them treating the Pope like just a another guy whom they can target with misinformation and hate campaigns?

Every time a far-Right leader or one of his/her proxies on Fox News tries to smear Francis, he and his handlers respond with some genius move — e.g., the ABC News event — that counters their misinformation and puts him back on track as being the religious and pop culture phenomenon he’s become: the first multi-partisan, right-left transcending people’s Pope in our lifetimes. 

Pope Francis kissing tumors
Kissing and caressing the tumor-covered head of a man in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo: Independent UK)

To be sure, there are some troubling bumps in the road to Pope-ish nirvana.

For every seemingly pro L, G, B or T utterance or action Francis makes in public. the Vatican seems to retrench by issuing some statement finessing Francis’ comments or replacing it with bigoted, though not hateful, language. The same happens often on the issues around the role of women in Church leadership.

Although these are often presented as having the imprimatur of Francis himself, I suspect they are issued in his name to placate conservative forces already reeling from lurching forward so far, so quickly on climate change, income inequality, immigration, reigning in capitalism’s worst flaws, racism, and other social justice issues which Francis seems to think need the most attention. If this is true, LGBT and women’s rights issues might be being used as boogeyman stand-ins — salves on conservative wounds and worries that their Church will become “socialist.”

“See, we’re not changing EVERYTHING you care about.”

One suspects it’s no coincidence that those two issues — homesexuality and the role of women — happen to be two issues which, if all that has been written about the demographics of the priesthood are true, probably feel most psychologically threatening to the male religious in the Church.

I get it. But i don’t have to like it.

Nonetheless, I’m thrilled this Pope sits on the throne of St. Peter in this time. He is a badly needed counterweight to mighty national and global forces which wield untold money and influence in the world. 

As one of the most powerful religious voices on Earth, he can change the global conversation from his predecessors’ juvenile and distracting fixation on the evils of human sexuality.

Social justice, racial equality and environmental stewardship; his papacy will dramatically benefit everyone on the middle and progressive parts of the political spectrum — and eventually everyone else if we all manage to save humanity from itself.

And who ever thought THAT would happen?

Kirk Cameron vs. Stephen Hawking

wingnuts

Perfectly sums things up, does it not?

The negative effects of televangelists in one graphic

televangelists
Source: YouGov.com

Prosperity theology. Wikipedia defines it for those who are unfamiliar with it:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor.

I added the underlining above. Because that phrase is the most important part. Prosperity theology also happens to be preached most fervently by prosperity gospel televangelists, the most infamous of which is probably Creflo A. Dollar, the perfectly named Atlanta TV preacher most famous for asking on his television program from the stage pulpit of his lavish broadcast center church for his followers to send him money for a $65 million private jet.

Dollar is so brazen in padding his bank accounts from the pockets of his mostly African-American audience that when the media spotlight was concentrated upon him because he so publicly preached about God wanting him to have a new jet, he returned to the televised staged to insist — based on Biblical principles, of course — that his obscene wealth proved that God thinks he is special and he deserved that jet despite the fact that he would be raising the money on the backs of many people who have a hard time feeding their families. “Now you see why the Devil tried so aggressively to discredit my voice,” Dollar told his suckers parishioners of the hail of criticism that rained down upon him even from many religious people when news got out about his asking for money for his $65 million personal taxi on wings preaching tool. Based on the wild cheers of approval from  of his audience, they swallowed it whole.

Now take a look at that graphic at the top of this page.  YouGov.com did some research and notes:

Comedian John Oliver took aim at cable televangelists and the ‘gospel of prosperity’ on a recent episode of Last Week Tonight. Using the examples of cancer patients who gave away their meager savings to preachers enjoying trips in church owned private jets to ski lodges, Oliver noted that the American tax code makes running a religious organization a potential source of immense personal wealth. A few church leaders have leveraged their positions at the head of television ministries and megachurches to build large personal fortunes as they preach a religious doctrine which claims that your financial success in this world reflects your standing with God. 

YouGov’s research shows that a large majority of Americans (73%) do not believe that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. Even most born again Christians (56%) disagree with that belief, though born again Christians (24%) are more than twice as likely as the rest of the country (10%) to believe that God favors the wealthy.

Nearly two-thirds of the public (62%) also agree that it is unacceptable for religious leaders to become very wealthy as a result of their religious works, but born again Christians (26%) are nearly twice as likely as all other Americans (16%) to say that this is acceptable. 

18% of Americans believe that prayer can make you wealthier, but born again Christians (38%) are nearly three times as likely as the rest of the population (13%) to believe this. Belief that prayer can improve your health is, however, a much more popular article of faith. 64% of Americans believe in the health benefits of prayer, including 54% of Americans who are not born again Christians. 

But if you look at the lower graphic above, this is where it becomes interesting, though not all that surprising. The groups with the highest percentage of belief in prosperity theology also happen to watch the most religious programming on television.

YouGov.com also notes the following:

The American public is split right down the middle on the thorny issue of whether or not religious organizations should be exempt from taxation. 40% of Americans think that they should be exempt, while 40% think that they should not be. There is a strong partisan element to opinion on this issue, though a significant minority among both Republicans and Democrats disagree with the majority opinion of their fellow partisans.

Democrats oppose tax exempt status for religious organizations 52% to 32% while Republicans support it 57% to 25%. Independents are effectively split, with 40% saying that religious organizations should not be tax exempt and 36% saying that they should be. 

Overall, televangelists generally have a poor reputation among the American public. 59% of Americans have unfavorable opinions of preachers and ministers who broadcast on TV, while only 23% have a favorable opinion of them. 

Yet another reason to favor most Democratic candidates over most Republican candidates.

There are groups which are trying to fight televangelism’s preying upon the poor and the ignorant. But they appear to be run, based on my limited research, mostly by white folks.

White people as a whole don’t have the best track record when it comes to looking out for the best interests of people of color. 

The effort to counter the messages of televangelists needs to come from other people of color to be effective.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.

Source: 38% of born again Christians believe prayer can boost your wealth – YouGov.com

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Accused child molester claims Bible as defense

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Accused child molester in Utah courtroom. I’m certain his lawyers told him, without much luck, “Try not to look like a child molester.”

The religious freedom of an accused child molester is being infringed upon in Utah, using the standards of what constitutes religious persecution expressed by most Republican candidates for president:

A Davis County judge will determine if an accused child molester is competent for trial.

Timothy Butler will be in a Farmington courtroom this afternoon.Butler has told the judge he wants to represent himself in the case, but the judge wants him to get an attorney.

From March of 2008 to 2011, prosecutors say Timothy Butler is accused of molesting two children and providing harmful materials to those kids. One of the crimes is still under investigation.

While in an interview with the Layton Police Department, Butler admitted to the crimes. During his first hearing Butler told the judge he was innocent.

He went on to claim religion as a defense telling the judge “the bible did not set limits on the ages between two partners ” and that God will set the truth free.

This is not the first time an accused child molester tried to use the Bible to defend himself, nor will it be the last. Utah might just as well set aside one county and declare it a reservation for pedophiles who think Jesus’ followers loved breaking pre-pubescent hymens.

Yes, that is a blunt way of putting it. But let’s not sugar coat the issue. This is what Butler and others use religion to defend. And let’s face it: if Christian fundamentalists are being totally honest, the Bible not only approves of pedophilia, it also approves of infanticide. 

When you insist that the Bible as written is the inerrant word of God, don’t be surprised when some people take you at your word. If every single word as written is not true, then it all becomes open to interpretation and it just depends on which church you belong to.

News video below during which the accused pleads his case.

Nice hairdo, by the way. Doesn’t make him look crazy at all.

Source: Accused child molester claims religion as defense | Good4Utah.com

Josh Duggar: not everyone is forgiving

Josh Duggar
One of the Facebook exchanges about Josh Duggar.

It appears the Duggars, the family with what is arguably the most famous litter since the Kennedys, is in a bit of a civil war. While it seems much of the family is either keeping silent or willing to forgive Josh Duggar, one brother-in-law is having none of it:

One of Anna Duggar’s brothers, Daniel Keller, is apparently coming to his sister’s defense in the wake of her husband Josh’s recent admission that he was unfaithful to her and addicted to pornography.

The comment section from a photo of a Bible verse that Josh’s sister Jessa (Duggar) Seewald uploaded to Facebook reveals comments from Keller weighing in on the cheating scandal.

“You have to confess and forsake your sin to have mercy. Not sin confess and repeat,” wrote Keller in reference to the quote posted by Jessa, which reads: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“Think for a min about the victims,” continued Keller in response to a reply left on his original comment. “Tell me how you would feel if someone cheated on your sister and brought so much disgrace to you and ur family.”

No word on how the rest of the family feels about this spilling of family business into the open, but one guesses any members of a reality TV clan can hardly go to one member and complain he’s an attention whore.

After all, when in Rome Springdale, Arkansas.

Source: Josh Duggar Scandal: Anna Duggar’s Brother Bashes Josh as ‘Pig’ on Facebook : People.com

Josh Duggar
Another of the Facebook exchanges about Josh Duggar.

IRS under fire after John Oliver segment; are televangelists next?

televangelists
John Oliver

If the IRS is under fire, that means that it is highly likely televangelists will eventually come under fire:

The IRS conducted a mere three audits of churches in 2013-2014, and had suspended them entirely between 2009 and 2013, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Televangelists preach something called the prosperity gospel, promises to bring the faithful out of debt and heal their diseases if only they give, give, give.

Oliver notes in his segment that the gospel “argues that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and donations will result in wealth coming back to you. That idea sometimes takes the form of seed faith—the notion that donations are seeds that you will one day get to harvest.”

So, televangelists are saying that if viewers donate to their campaigns—which have included the likes of a crowdfunding effort to fund a private jet—they’ll reap rewards from God down the line.

An estimated 5 million viewers have donated millions of dollars to televangelist preachers.

Which is where the IRS comes in.

The Trinity Foundation, an organization that probes religious fraud, holds that the wild success of televangelism has in part been fueled by the IRS failing to audit churches, which are exempt from taxes due to the constitutional right to exercise religion freely.

Speaking to CBS News, Trinity Foundation’s founder, Ole Anthony, said that since the IRS named Scientology a church several years ago, “anybody can call themselves a church.”

Naturally, Oliver has now registered his own church with the IRS, called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.

Speaking of the Trinity Foundation, there are worse uses of your time than to familiarize yourself with this group.

Be careful. There are lots of groups called Trinity Foundation in religion, for obvious reasons. But the one that fights televangelist corruption can be found only at http://trinityfi.org.

The Trinity Foundation has a page of Frequently Asked Questions that is a useful primer on how these snake oil salesmen get away with the things they get away with, and ways that you might help stop it, including: 

Complain to the FCC. Unlike newspapers and other media, television and radio depend on using airwaves that belong to all of us. The Federal Communications Commission is charged with regulating these broadcasts in the public interest.

Canada has a law that any claims over the airwaves have to be verifiable. We’d like to see the American public join in a nationwide discussion of the merits of that option. In 1993, Ole Anthony of our Trinity Foundation met with the Energy and Commerce Committee to try to get them to adopt the Canadian code. Unfortunately at the time, Republicans thought this would alienate their Christian voter base.

Write the FCC to express your outrage at allowing this fraud to continue to be broadcast.

Chairman Julius Genachowski
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

or e-mail him at Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov

Educating yourself will make you feel empowered and will give us all a roadmap to keep the pressure up on this billion-dollar scam industry.

If enough of us take action, it will eventually make a dent.

As I’ve stated before, part of me doesn’t mind these freaks. They take money largely from religious loonies. But they also mostly target poor people and the elderly. 

Source: IRS Under Microscope After John Oliver Televangelism Segment | Newsweek

televangelist
The “church” of televangelist Creflo Dollar, who unabashedly raised money on-air to purchase a new private jet.