Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The "Kittens" of Turkey's "Feminist" Islam Cult

Guess which one is Meher.
Broadly (VICE) producer Meher Ahmad has captured Pure Religious Weirdness (tm) in a recent field investigation into kitty cat loving guru Adnan Oktar. This guy - who is perhaps too impatient to ever smile - seems to have established a feminist Islam cult with devotees closely resembling the crowds of club goers I see ice walking awkwardly on high heels on Crescent St in Montreal in February.

Just watch it. It's insane, controlling and awkward like any cult.

The kittens are his heavily makeuped, botoxed, and allegedly plastic surgeried followers. He's written over 300 books on topics like creationism, which he strongly supports. His works include a monumental tome - Atlas of Creation. Although it takes an Atlas to be able to hold it up, but it can be placed at everyone's bedside and used as a deadly weapon to be hurled at anyone who attempts to break in and steal your stuff.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe - a lot who probably do not resemble the kittens very much and probably do not dance in their seats to dance music nearly enough (for shame!) - have a lot to say about his atlas.
In his numerous anti-Darwinist works, [Yahya] tries to prove the absurdity and unscientific nature of the theory of evolution, which is for him only one of Satan’s greatest deceptions. However, the pseudo-scientific method he uses in his work The Atlas of Creation cannot in any way be considered scientific. The author tries to prove the non-scientific nature of the theory of evolution by taking and challenging the evidence of evolution. He does not mention any prior questioning. Moreover, as he only compares photographs of fossils to photographs of current species he provides no scientific proof for these statements. Even better, ..., on page 60 of this work we see a superb photograph of a fossil of a perch with a claim in the caption that this fish has not evolved over millions of years. That, however, is wrong: a detailed study of the fossil and perches living today shows that, on the contrary, they have evolved a great deal. Unfortunately, Yahya’s book is full of this type of falsehood. None of the arguments in this work are based on any scientific evidence, and the book appears more like a primitive theological treatise than the scientific refutation of the theory of evolution. It may be noted that Yahya says he has the support of major scientists. They would also have to be specialists in the biology of evolution! ... By only presenting facts without any theory or proof, Harun Yahya abuses the credulity of individuals who listen to him or read his works. Moreover, as Jacques Arnoult emphasises, the BAV and Harun Yahya in Turkey, just like the American Institute for Creation Research, resort to partial, indeed erroneous, references to develop their creationist arguments. The authors do not hesitate to quote magazine articles that defend evolution but they succeed in turning the meaning round by shortening the quotations. This is nothing less than intellectual dishonesty, which is particularly harmful.
This coming from the Committee of Science Education. But can they get properly jiggy? Do they move their booty quite as well on such luxurious chairs while their leader pipes cheesy dance music into the room from one of two permanently affixed Ipads on his podium? I think not.

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Monday, 19 October 2015

Can We Just Try For a Fair Secular Solution?

Today's election day. Once again, much like the Quebec election, I find myself stuck in the middle of two positions. Both sides likely do not understand me. Both sides likely find me annoying.

It has to do with women swearing an oath of citizenship wearing niqabs. That should be the limits of the debate here in Canada, but of course people have taken things and they've run with it. The issue itself has been distorted all to hell.

Here's the deal. I'm actually fine with women (or men) wearing niqabs, Pastafarian spaghetti strainers, Wiccan ritual outfits, giraffe suits, Storm Trooper costumes or even garbage bags to citizenship ceremonies. I have no ill will towards women wearing niqabs, burkas, hijabs or chadors. I think this point of view is shared by many Canadians.

People who get offended by the above point of view because Jedi and Pastafarianism are not a real religions while they've got a legit one can eat it. That's part of this tolerance I keep hearing about. It works both ways.

In return for allowing all people to wear face concealing head coverings, Muslim women and ultra orthodox Jewish women (coverings for these do exist) will be able to wear their garbs in citizenship ceremonies. As Canadians, we can all get together and figure out what's required to facilitate this new right for all Canadians regardless of religion or lack thereof. Maybe it will involve a special room to the side where a government employee will validate the person's identity. Perhaps it will involve a special notary public. Perhaps retina scanning technology will be used. There are many many options.

This would not be religious accommodation, this would be head garb accommodation.

I'll also stop people right here who say that this will cause too much extra spending and would propose that the government stop funding religious magazines to pay the few extra salaries required. Honestly, we have the money to settle this debate in a permanent and truly secular fashion.

This is my dream: Secular government sees that a significant proportion of their citizenship wants to wear stuff on their heads to citizenship ceremonies. Government says that if one group wants this right then all groups get it. It's like when little Billy brought his chocolate bar into class - all the kids get some. It's only fair, children.

There is also a dark side to this debate though. On the one hand, you have people who are truly xenophobic and bigoted who are against Muslims. On the other, you have ex-Muslims and other progressives who point out, rightly, that in many countries - including Muslim communities within Canada - girls and women are forced to wear these coverings and that is oppressive. On a third hand, you have progressives who seem completely blind to this oppression.

I say, let's take the wind out of the issue by allowing everyone to wear what they like and then concentrate on different ways to combat religiously motivated oppression. Mandatory multi-religion courses and broad social studies in schools is one way, for instance. This includes realistic sex education - which address perfectly healthy realities like homosexuality and trans folk - like what all the hullabaloo is about in Ontario.

Listen, I'd love to see Harper go. I'll take the NDP as first and the Liberals as second. Issues like the TPP, assisted dying, abortion rights, healthcare, not making 15B dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, unmuzzling scientists, decriminalisation of cannabis, and secularism are important to me and I hope we see a little more of this.

Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for a fair and reasonable solution to this problem from any of these parties.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Instructional Video: How to Become a Cult Leader

Stop whatever you're doing! A friend of mine shared this valuable instructional video on how to set up a cult - and by cult we actually mean pretty much any religion out there. I'm talking about Mind Control Made Easy - Or How to Become a Cult Leader. 
Since the death of God, there's been a vacancy open. You could fill that void. Here's how.
According to my new favourite website, Underground Film Journal, it was screened in the 2001 New York Underground Film Festival but didn't really appear on the web - hence didn't really exist - until ten years later.
In these difficult economic times, there’s one job that’s always in demand and that pays huge dividends: Cult leader! Didn’t you always want to become a cult leader, but didn’t know where to start? Luckily, filmmaker Carey Burtt has uploaded his classic underground instructional film Mind Control Made Easy (or how to become a cult leader) to set you on the right career path. Just follow these easy to understand steps and, in no time, you’ll have a devoted flock giving you all their money, their bodies and their humanity. Don’t be a follower. Be a leader! A cult leader!
The article goes on to point out that after watching the entire film - with droning music - you may just feel like you've fallen into the cult of Carey Burtt!

Here's the film, you must watch it to purge evil Zetans from your Earth vessel.

What strikes me is that you find many of these tactics in mainstream religions not considered to be cults.

You can find filmmaker Carey Burtt on Youtube.

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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UK Professor Suggests No Microwaving Bacon in Communal Workplace Kitchens

At my office, there are unwritten rules about what can go into the microwaves in our shared kitchen. No microwave popcorn, a minimal amount of bacon and absolutely no smelly fish. These aren't codified anywhere, they're just there so people do not get unnecessarily distracted by the smell.

Well, Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmith’s University in London runs the Religious Literacy Leadership program and involved with CoExist House. He released some helpful guidelines about how business communal kitchens ought to work so as to not offend religious sensibilities.
Professor Adam Dinham suggests not microwaving sausage rolls in a shared kitchen space. He also advises that you should not keep bacon, or bacon rolls, in the fridge if it is shared with people whose beliefs prohibit them from eating pork.

The guidelines go on to suggest that employers should serve certified Halal and kosher food at corporate events, and consider whether or not alcohol should be served.
It's cuz we've all become really blind by secularism.
Professor Dinham said: ‘We have lost the ability to talk about religious belief because of a century of secular assumptions, and most religious belief is either highly visible and we don’t recognise it, or it’s invisible and we miss it entirely.’
It's interesting that pork is being singled out, isn't it? I'm wondering why there are no suggestions to not allow warming up your beef cottage pie in the microwave so as to not disturb Hindus. Is Dinham suggesting they become less agitated than Jews or Muslims?

What about the Jain in your office? I would expect no meat all all to be allowed so as to not offend them.

This would make the environment tolerable for vegetarians, for sure. What about vegans though? Ought we also suggest there by no dairy products or eggs at the office? Well, I suppose veganism is not a religion and is therefore not at the same level of importance to Mr. Dinham.

Nevermind that there is considerable controversy around Halal and Kosher slaughtering techniques even among meat eaters. What about their sensibilities? Not religious, I guess.

What about gluten in the office? Celiac disease is not a religious sensibility, this is an actual physical reaction to consumption of gluten, found in many foods. Shouldn't this be right up there on top if we're going to be discussing etiquette?

So what about a pork, beef, meat, eggs, dairy, bread, dairy free kitchen?

Understandably, there was a negative reaction to this on the Internet yesterday. People thought it amounted to a ban - which it wasn't. However, I found this VICE Munchies article by Alex Swerdloff that seems to have utterly missed how the original guidelines are troublesome - a point I made above but would have thought to be obvious to anyone.
It was just a few suggestions: Don’t keep bacon in the office fridge if your colleagues don’t eat bacon. Microwaving a sausage roll might be offensive to your Muslim coworker. That kind of thing.
I think he meant to say this one and only thing apparently for these two specific groups.

Commenter hayleyscomet sums things up over at the Independent.
If you are going to go down that route, the only way to avoid offending anyone is to have offices segregated by religion and dietary preference.  
We've seen this sort of thing before on a much larger scale in India - a so-called secular state. Although guidelines are not laws or bans, the line between them in an office environment can be thin.

How about this for a novel approach at inter-faith (or no faith) co-existence at the office? I'll let you cook and eat what you like so long as you do not attempt to control my own diet by appealing to your wounded religious sensibilities?

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Sunday, 4 October 2015

Conservative Government Effectively Screening Syrian Refugees Based On Religion

The Syrian refugee crisis is a tragedy of nearly unparallelled proportions. So, the Conservative government originally made a goal to bring in 1,300 people. Unfortunately, they missed their goal because they insisted on privatizing the whole process by requesting that private sponsors help foot the bill - this is code word for churches.  

See, the only private groups that can step in in any reasonable number to bring in refugees just happen to be religious groups. Anyway, it didn't work.
When the government first committed to accepting 1,300 Syrian refugees, only 200 were supposed to have been government-assisted. However, Canada ended up more than doubling that number and sponsoring 434 refugees when not enough private sponsors came forward quickly enough.

These 434 were referred by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and therefore were not selected based on religion or ethnicity.
Now the government could have easily sponsored these refugees itself, but the privatization of this process had two effects which must have been appealing to the Conservatives. Firstly, it appeals to the whole idea of economic privatization (they love that) and secondly - although CFI Canada is trying - the only groups who are currently in a position to be private sponsors just so happen to be churchers ... mainly Christian ones.
"Maybe the government looked at this and concluded it was churches who are best organized to do private sponsorship. Thus, since the government is putting emphasis on ... private sponsorship rather than UNHCR refugees sponsored by the government, maybe they told themselves, 'They're mostly Christians,"' suggested Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR).

Last December, the CCR and other organizations denounced Ottawa's intention to privilege certain refugees on the basis of religion.

"This type of practice runs counter to fundamental principles of refugee protection," said CCR president Loly Rico. "The refugees must be selected for resettlement on the basis of need." 
Of course, the Harper government doesn't care one bit what groups like this think. They are playing up to their evangelical and Christian base. Because the UNHCR does not consider the religion of the refugees when determining their need, the government is turning to churches to bring over as many (just so happen to be Christian) refugees as possible.

They just raised their new goal to 10,000 refugees this year.
The Conservative government is counting on private sponsorship to ensure that the 10,000 Syrian refugees it has promised to accept between now and next September will be first and foremost Christians, Druze, Kurds and other minorities it wishes to prioritize.
According to the article, only 1,100 refugees have made it over so far this year. The pace needs to pick up if the government really cares about making their goal and helping people based on their needs rather than on their creeds.
"If an established group decides to sponsor a Muslim, nothing in the law allows the government to not take up the file or to refuse it because the person is the wrong religion," said Dench.
Naturally, atheists in Syria are at terrible risk - within their country and in many of the countries in the Gulf region. They also are not the right religion.

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Friday, 2 October 2015

Discussion: "Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article"

Niqabs, hijabs, chadors, and burkas seem to be in the news again as the election heats up. To be honest, I've tended to avoid this issue. I wish we would just start taxing churches, temples and mosques indiscriminately like any other building.

This said, I'm okay with face revealing chadors and hijabs when government ID is required, but niqabs and burkas would require that either the State hire special female face checkers or else some form of reasonable accommodation by the women themselves to the State by revealing their faces.

And naturally, any judgement here would need to also apply to Pastafarians! They wear headgear more revealing than all four of the above and is worn for religious reasons and yet it is not allowed! Why?

I will soon have Eiynah Nicemangos onto the podcast who has some strong feelings regarding this issue.

Another person with opinions on this is fellow Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass. She has published an interesting article over at the Atheist Freethinkers blog.

Abbass sent me some background on the blog. Atheist Freethinkers/Libres penseurs athées (AFT/LPA) is a fully bilingual (French & English) organization based in Montreal, Quebec committed to “reason, knowledge and the material, intellectual and moral advancement of humanity.” AFT/LPA’s raisons d'être are to “promote secularism and reject any religious involvement in civil institutions.”

From Abbass’ latest article, “Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article,”:
Raheel Raza’s Toronto Sun article “Ban niqab, burka in all public places” and reprinted in Huffington Post Canada as “As a Muslim, I Think Canada Should Ban the Niqab and Burka in Public” is extremely annoying.
Go give it a read to find out why Abbass finds Raheel Raza’s article “annoying.” Then let the discussion begin.

Read and sign the Atheist Manifesto and join AFT/LPA.

Be counted: Sign Atheist Census Canada and the Atheist Alliance International Atheist Census.

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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Free Streaming of New Documentary About Christianity's Obsession with Sex & Purity

Not a scene from the movie, but I found it strangely fitting.
Have you ever noticed that the more fundamentalist and conservative the Christians, the more obsessed they appear to be about sex? It seems to range from remaining chaste before marriage to marrying Jesus and remaining chaste for the rest of their lives. It seems like sex is a really big deal for Christians.

No Sex Please, We're Purity Nuts.

So, there's a really interesting movie that's going to be available for free streaming over at Vimeo, tomorrow: Give Me Sex Jesus (@GiveMeSexJesus).
Give Me Sex Jesus tells six personal stories of struggle from within the Evangelical community to remain sexually pure until marriage. But what happens when our bodies and desires do not behave?

A handsome couple saves their first kiss for the altar; a gay son comes out to his famous family; a transgender man searches for authenticity; and a feminist confronts double standards. While the control of desire is universal, the salvation of these people depends upon it.

Since the 1990s, the Purity Movement has been at the center of a national conversation about sexuality that extends from the pew into the Oval Office. Give Me Sex Jesus invites you into the pleasure, shame, and humor at the intersection of faith and sex in America.
It's is a production of Side Hug Films and is produced and directed by Matt Barber and produced and written by Brittany Machado (@BrittLynnMach). It comes as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign launched in 2012 and completed in 2014. (This last point answers my own question about why the movie is being released for free.)

According to the press kit, the film will contain taped interviews from a wide array of people - both pro sexual purity and con.
Interviewees include Dr. Richard Ross (founder of the Purity Movement, True Love Waits), Stephanie Drury (Stuff Christian Culture Likes), Chris Bright (grandson of founder, Campus Crusade for Christ), and Dr. Amy DeRogatis (author, Saving Sex). Personal stories include a couple who saved their first kiss for the altar; a gay son who came out to his famous family; a transgender man who searched for authenticity; a feminist who confronts sexual double standards; and more.
You can watch the trailer below.

Give Me Sex Jesus - 2015 TRAILER from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

The film's website even features a supportive from atheist blogger, Hemant Mehta:
They’re not pushing an agenda that says Christians are right or wrong. They’re only interested in telling the stories of people who grew up with these rules around them and explaining where this sex-negativity (my term, not theirs) comes from.
I found another short clip from the film on Vimeo which explores how purity has racial baggage in the United States due to its history of racial segregation and minority persecution.

Give Me Sex Jesus: The Impure History of Purity from Matt Barber on Vimeo.

Looks real interesting! So apparently if you go to the site, you can watch the movie tomorrow starting 6pm PST, for free.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Number of 'Nones' Grow 1947% In Last Decade In Punjab India

You thought the Nones are the fastest growing 'religious' group here in America, but you haven't seen anything yet. This doesn't hold a candle to the growth of the non-religious in India - more specifically, in the northwestern state of Punjab.
But a break-up of religious census data has revealed that Punjabis who preferred to not specify their religion has witnessed a massive growth of 1947.17% in the last decade. There are around 87,000 Punjabi individuals, who have told enumerators during the decadal census exercise that they follow no religion. In 2001, number was just 4,468.
Of course, it's natural to believe that societal pressures may have prevented people from revealing their true metaphysical position in the past. 
"Surely, some people may have hidden their religious identity during enumeration but it appears that a large number of these individuals are nonbelievers," said Dr Harvinder Singh Bhatti, head of the department of sociology, Punjabi University, Patiala, who also heads the university's Centre for Census Studies and Research. "There is no suppressive factor on the ground at least in Punjab, which may dissuade thousands of individuals from revealing their religion."
Nationally, the growth of non-believers is at 400% in the last 10 years, which is also pretty amazing. It's also rather astonishing that in Punjab, the number is equally split between men and women  - which is not the case in North America.

It's also interesting to note that Punjab directly borders Pakistan, which is a very not good place for people to reveal their atheism.

Some have pointed out that 1947% also happens to be the same number as the year India gained its independance from the British Empire (1947). When asked about the coincidence, one person moderating the Indian Atheists Facebook page quipped:

Nopes. Not a coincidence. God planned it this way

Great news from India!

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Virgin Mary and Jesus Appear In Window Pane - Clerics Move Window to Church

Why are these Ukrainian clerics carrying a window to their church? Why is everyone around them trying to touch the window and saying prayers to it and kneeling in front of it? It's because a picture of the Virgin Mary and Jesus appeared on the window!

Just take a look! It's so obvious! Checkmate, atheists!
(image source)
Obviously if you cannot see this, you are a complete moron, or some sort of atheist or something. I can't see anything. It just looks like glass to me.

The alleged appearance of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus in a window has seen dozens of faithful Christians flocking to a small village in Ukraine.

A double-glazed window had been put up during construction of a house in Beregovoy, western Ukraine, at which point the Virgin Mary 'appeared' on the pane. 

As devout Christians, locals took the image of Mary and Jesus as a sign, and began praying to the window. 
So they took the glass out and brought it to their church. They are not literally praying to the window.

Right, I just cannot see it. This is so ridiculous, I really have no words for it.

Two more non-existent made up things to worship!

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Ukrainian Bishop Refuses to Pay Traffic Violation Because: God

When will he harassment ever end? Just this weekend, a Ukrainian Orthodox bishop was minding his own business being chauffeured in his $100,000 Mercedes Benz, whereupon his driver happened to violate one of Kyiv's (Kiev) traffic laws.

So a traffic cop stopped him and was going to issue a ticket - or whatever they do there. Did he not get the memo? How could he persecute a man of God in such an egregious way? Did he not notice the fabulous robe and striking hat with flowing white scarf?
The police stopped the Mercedes Benz for a traffic violation in the Ukrainian capital over the weekend only to discover after stopping the car that the luxurious vehilce contained the high-ranking priest of Kyiv's Pechersk Lavra, Bishop Pavel.

The priest refused to acknowledge the offence committed by his driver, asking the patrol officer whether he had been in the church that day.

Bishop Pavel also said that the officer should think of his soul first and then ask questions, adding that the driver was not guilty because he was fulfilling the priest's order.
This pesky traffic laws are for the mere laity. Robe-wearing, big hat sporting clerics being chauffeured about in $100,000 cars are above the laws of Man.
After the police officer kept insisting that the driver had broken the law, Bishop Pavel said, "That's nothing, thank God," and ordered the driver to move.
Take that! Laws like that mean nothing because: GOD!

If I were the office, I would kindly drop the ticket in the mail and inform his holiness of whatever interest or penalty system is in place for delinquent payers. Of course, that's not going to happen in this case.

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Friday, 28 August 2015

Religious Zealots Have Begun Destroying 'Satanic' Art In Russia

This past year, I reported an opera being shut down after an Orthodox priest, who never bothered to watch it, complained. Then there was the Orthodox Jewish activist Dmitry Enteo and crew, who broke into a Moscow art exhibit they found blasphemous and caused $15,000 worth of damage.

The Moscow Times has a recent piece about this mob of religious thugs.
Visitors to the exhibit attempted to protect the works from the activists. One of the visitors, Lyudmila Dyagileva, called the activists "fanatics and extremists whose actions have nothing to do with faith and Christianity" in an interview with The Moscow Times.

"If they get away with it, it will send a message that you can do anything you want. It is a signal that you can destroy everything if the authorities do nothing," she said.

Enteo was detained briefly by the police on Friday before being promptly released the same evening.
Indeed the head of the presidential Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, drew a comparison between Enteo's group and ISIS, when it came to wholesale destruction of culture.

Well, on Wednesday, a century old St. Petersburg facade of the mythical devil Mephistopheles was dismantled in plain daylight and chucked into a garbage by a religiously motivated group posing as construction workers.
Local news outlets and social media users reported that the relief was removed from the building without explanation on Wednesday. According to one Facebook user, historian Dmitry Bratkin, the house was designed by 19th and early 20th century architect Alexander Lishnevsky.

"Naturally, the monument was under protection," Bratkin said. "Or had been. Fifteen minutes ago, Mephistopheles was knocked off the facade."

One resident of the building, Kirill Alexeyev, told independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta that "workers showed up at 10 in the morning, did not introduce themselves, and did not say who had sent them."

Instead, the workers asked the building's residents to move their cars away from the building to avoid being damaged by falling plaster, and then proceeded with the removal of Mephistopheles, Alexeyev said.
They they stuck it in the back of their truck and drove away. It was found in a dumpster not long afterward.

When asked, the workers said that the facade was dilapidated and that they would construct a new one in plaster - these were all apparently lies. No government agency nor the construction firm of a new Orthodox Russian church directly facing the facade claims to know anything about this.

What? Did I say this facade happens to face a new church?  Why yes I did. In fact, the crucifix had just been erected less than a week before the devil statue was busted up.
"A couple of days ago, a cross was placed on the roof of the church that is under construction across [the building]," Bratkin wrote on his Facebook page. "Yesterday, some sprightly people showed up and took photographs of the facade with the Mephistopheles, and today at 3 in the afternoon, a worker hung down from the roof and — whack, whack, whack."

Natalya Levina, another local woman, said her neighbors had spotted "people from the church" looking around and inquiring about the "demon," the Metro news agency reported.
Well, that's not suspicious at all.

A short while after the destruction, one Denis Gorchin, self-described former head of the St. Petersburg Cossack community - although they have disowned him - wrote a letter to a local news site explaining his religious motivations for destroying the statue.
Gorchin, the self-described former leader of the Cossacks, indicated he was motivated by religious reasons, though he insisted the Orthodox Church had no involvement in the attack, news portal reported, citing a letter it had received from them man.

However, he added in the letter: "Opposite the church there is a figure of the devil, which prevents the [Orthodox] cross from being placed, and so on," St. Petersburg's Fontanka news agency reported.

"We were outraged by the fact that this horrible legend, this outlandish story, has effectively become an attraction, a draw for tourists, has become a [matter of] pride, and we have open worship of the Satan," the letter was quoted as saying.

St. Petersburg Orthodox leader Father Konstantin "would never have dared. So we dared," the letter said. 
Yes, that's right! The statue had to go because there was a cross being erected! Note that this doesn't implicate church members, just this Gorchin guy who did the dirty work so to speak. Still, the Orthodox Russian church said they understood why such an action was done - way to not condemn the criminal act.
But a spokesman for the hugely powerful Russian Orthodox Church said the attack was an understandable reaction.

"It's possible to understand the culprit. As a believer, he finds images of a demon disgusting," Orthodox Church spokesman Roman Bagdasarov told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia.

"Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world and this person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil," he said.
Oddly, several media outlets have blamed this on right-wing or conservative groups, which appears to be nothing more than protecting religion.

This relief and much of the rest of the work by the architect, Lishnevsky, survived atheist Soviet Russia - only to be smashed to bits by religious fanatics.
Lishnevsky, the architect, died during World War II after being evacuated to a hospital in Yaroslavl — a historical city 250 kilometers to the northeast of Moscow. Much of his work survived the devastation of the was [sic: war] and the secular policies of the Soviet Union.
According to this story,  police have identified those responsible for the destruction. Yet, as with Dmitry Enteo, no criminal charges have been laid. It would seem that Lyudmila Dyagileva could be right after all - the message has been sent that it's open season in Russia now for any art which offends anyone's religious sensibilities.

Let the cultural cleansing begin.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Top Turkish Religious Body Warns Of "Spreading Religion of Jediism"

Please forgive me, dear readers. I've been so busy with Life and Humanity that I've neglected the noble art of blog writing. As I mentioned before, things are so busy that I'm having to go into shotgun mode, which means you'll get short rapid fire posts. They'll be thin but hopefully tasty, like ketchup potato chips.

It's been awhile since I've blogged about the situation in Turkey. I'll remind you that Islamic scholars and institutions there have, in the past, forbidden oral sex in advanced dimensions, rebuked a soap opera for showing too much lip-o-suction, replaced pictures of genitalia in a Biology text book with fluffy ducklings, and banned the Game of Thrones.

Well now the country's top religious body is sounding the alarm against a threat to Islam: Jediism!
In an article for the latest edition of the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ (Diyanet) monthly magazine, Marmara University Assistant Professor Bilal Yorulmaz has warned of the spreading new “religion” of Jediism - the religion of the Jedi warriors in the Star Wars series.
The good professor seems to liken the spread of Jediism to tooth decay. It's starting in the corrupt West ... Christendom.. and it could very well move into Islamic countries.
“Jediism … is spreading today in Christian societies. Around 70,000 people in Australia and 390,000 people in England currently define themselves as Jedis,” Yorulmaz wrote, before engaging in an Islamic-based critique of a number of Hollywood blockbusters.

He also slammed Turkish theatre and cinema producers over what he described as the “ill-minded” presentation of religious people as “bad characters” and also giving Islamic-themed names to unintelligent characters.
In fact, University students in Turkey have already demanded that Buddhist and Jedi temples be built on campus! Of course, this was very likely (mostly) a satirical protest against the government foisting Islam onto university campuses. Surely professor Bilal Yorulmaz realizes that. Right? Right?

I knew a big Star Wars fan awhile back. He seemed perfectly normal until the movie with Jar Jar Binks came out. Then he got very depressed.

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Friday, 14 August 2015

Correction: Dubai 'Honour Drowning' Story Apparently Two Decades Old

Remember that story I posted about on Monday about the father who let his daughter drown rather than let any male lifeguards near her - to guard her honour?

One correction on that. It apparently happened twenty years ago.
Apparently the article – which originated on the website Emirates 24/7 – was from an interview in which lifeguards were asked to recount the strangest things that had happened to them. As someone who bothered to check out where it came from tells Monkey: “They mentioned this case of the Asian man who prevented his daughter’s rescue, but, and here’s the catch – it was from 1996.”
That's enough time past that I was not able to find a trace of the original story on the internet anywhere. However, this should have tipped me off from the original Emirates 24/7 story I trace it down to:
Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department, recounting some of the worst incidents he had encountered in his tenure, said that this incident took place at a beach in Dubai.
On some level, I was so eager to report that I missed out on this detail - which informs us that this likely happened sometime in the past, during Burqibah's career... maybe.

I wasn't the only one to fall for this.
The Mail, Telegraph, Metro and even Sky News all jumped on the story, which came via Agence France Press.
Still, I should have caught it and will try to be more diligent in the future!

Thanks so much to Facebook user Daniel Lynx Bernard for pointing me out to the story debunking this. I found another story echoing this as well.

(Image source)

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Duggar Son-In-Law: "Believing in Evolution Is Totally Racist"

Jessa and Ben Seewald at Arby's. (source)
It's been awhile since we heard from any of the Duggars ever since their show got canceled. Remember that?

Hey, do you recall Jessa Seewald (née Duggar)? She posts all kinds of neat stuff like this and this. She also likes to post videos with her hubby Ben Seewald who does important "«research»" discovering that atheists don't actually exist!

Is this sufficient literary exposition? Are we all caught up now? Excellent! Let's take a look at this, then!

It's some advice from Ben and his buddy Dante Berry about how Christians should respond to racism. I think it has to do with not being racist (duh!) and not believing in evil, racist EVIL-ution... maybe? I don't know.

It goes something like this:
Lots of racism and stuff. Let's check the Bible at Mark 3... blah blah... 
That’s right, there’s no room for racism in Christianity. That all comes from the Devil. That all comes from, like, this false religion out here, evolution, that stuff? Teaching that, like, some people are ‘more evolved?' ... and stuff.”
The more I watch certain videos, the more I think that perhaps some people are more evolved. That would be rude though, so please strike it from the record.

I sort of follow what Dante is saying. Ben sort of confuses me. I do wish he would substitute words with actual meanings in place of whatever the hell that was.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Dubai Father Let Daughter Drown Rather than Allow Male Life Guards Near Her

2015-08-14: CORRECTION: It now appears this story may have actually taken place two decades ago.

My last post was about how the police in Bangladesh seemed more concerned about religious sentiment than the physical safety of freethinkers in the country. Well, here's an extremely infuriating story out of the United Arab Emirates about a father's religious sentiments undermining the very most basic human imperative of protecting one's own children.
A father of a 20-year-old girl let his daughter drown, stopping life guards from rescuing her.

He preferred that his daughter die rather than she be touched by a strange man, according to a top official.
That about sums it up - the rest are details. The only silver lining to the story is that this man has been arrested and charged.
“The father was a tall and strong man. He started pulling and preventing the rescue men and got violent with them. He told them that he prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man.”
This is religion killing people.

What kills me personally is thinking about what it must have been like for the woman.
“The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help.
How horrendous it must have been in the final seconds - when she may have realized that her own father is actively killing her because she has breasts and ovaries.

Really, are these ideas worth dying for? It's so sad and revolting.

(Image source)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Religion Starting to Understand Climate Change... But It's Still Frustrating

I'm in a cranky mood today, so expect some kvetching over minor things. Take for example this piece by Bill McKibben, who is a excellent activist. I him support in his effort to get universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. This effort is so worthwhile, as it hits these companies where it hurts - the wallet and public image.

My nitpicking starts with the mere title of the piece: What religion can teach climate scientists.

More on this later. Take a look at the first two paragraphs.
Pope Francis’s remarkable encyclical, Laudato Si’, has been rightly hailed as a watershed moment in the climate debate, the moment when religion finally took note of what science had been saying for a couple of decades. As with all watersheds, though, the river at the bottom draws its power from all the creeks that feed in along the way — it’s worth remembering just how many people (a large number of them in Massachusetts) have worked over the years to build a true faith-based environmental movement. How they’ve managed to do it holds lessons for all of us trying to spread the word about climate change.

Twenty-five years ago, when this work was just getting started, there was nothing easy about it: In liberal churches and synagogues, environmentalism was considered slightly elitist, a task to be gotten to once the serious business of war and hunger had been dealt with. In conservative congregations, anything green was considered a depot on the track to paganism.
Can we all stop and ask why the Roman Catholic Church - the leader of which is apparently an infallible conduit for the word of God himself - is now finally tuning in to what scientists have been screaming, ever louder each year, for decades?

Then you have evangelicals who are still in denial against all evidence and reason. How many more decades can we afford to waste trying to drag them kicking and screaming into reality?

And after all of this... they will mark it proudly on flags and wave them about for everyone: we've always known that climate change is legit! In fact, it was the Christians and Christianity which was instrumental in the environmental movement. Praise Jesus.

It has been this way with slavery in the South and it will be so for same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. It's good they are catching up, finally, but it's bloody aggravating.
In the end, it may be less the political power of faith communities that matters and more their ability to transform the bleak message of scientists into something that more people can hear. Faith-based environmentalists, after all, are allowed to have some hope that if they work hard, the world might meet them halfway.
Such is the problem with basing your environmentalism on faith rather than evidence and science - you'll remain obstinately behind the times - perhaps with fatal results for our species and thousands of others on this planet.

(Image source)

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Damon Linker Thinks Progressives Should Fight For Church Tax Exemption, Because: "Freedom" of Religion

So Damon Linker is back. He just wrote something about how taxing churches is a form of religious persecution.

Are Christians being thrown into prison or having their heads chopped off in the United States? No. Churches may be forced to pay taxes like everyone else! Persecution!
Maybe such moves wouldn't be made against churches themselves. But it would be foolish to presume it couldn't or won't happen. Once the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage is combined with laws banning discrimination against homosexuals — which already exist in well over a dozen states and are coming soon at the federal level — the case for eliminating religious tax exemptions could be powerful. And of course all of this will take place against a cultural backdrop of rapid secularization that could well produce a demographically driven sea change in the nation's attitudes toward churches and other religious institutions. Just because the United States has a long history of deference to religion doesn't mean it will continue indefinitely.
Deference to religion means religious privilege. Linker, who's argued in the past that atheism cannot explain self-sacrifice and offered us atheists advice on how to be honest, is now advising us - and progressives - to defend this tax exemption -- for our own well-being, of course.

He first drags out the argument that churches get this exemption because these organizations do so much for the community. I would concede that this is certainly true for some churches, but with it comes the promotion of religion - and the government is ultimately left to decide what qualifies as religion. Furthermore, as I've seen with a nearby church and Mark Oppenheimer writes, a church's lack of property taxes will be made up by other businesses and private individuals footing their bill.
Indeed, many clergy have mid-six-figure salaries — many university presidents, seven-figure salaries — and the IRS doesn’t trouble their tax-exempt status. And many churches and synagogues sit on exceedingly valuable tracts of land (walk up and down Fifth Avenue to see what I mean). The property taxes they aren’t paying have to be drawn from business owners and private citizens — in a real sense, you and I are subsidizing Mormon temples, Muslims mosques, Methodist churches.
It's really this next line of reasoning from Linker that gets me though.
But of course the First Amendment doesn't just preclude a religious establishment. It also protects religious "free exercise," and it is on those grounds that the elimination of tax exemptions for churches should be opposed by all Americans, liberal and conservative alike.
You know, free exercise as in FREE. Linker goes on to develop the idea that churches are operating on such tight margins, they would be destroyed if they had to pay taxes, with or without tithes, so I'm not 100% sure where he was going with these ironic quotation marks. It does suggest to me, though, that this could have been a little clever wordplay.

He then ends the whole thing on a completely bizarre note.
To which some liberals may be inclined to respond: "You bet it is — and rightly so! Why on Earth should the government be making special provisions to protect institutions that openly advocate discrimination against a category of American citizens?"
Why on earth, indeed? Furthermore, it matters not whether the church is full of bigots or not, if they are on a property they should be paying their property taxes.

Linker tells us that if churches are taxed - presumably because they wish to discriminate against LGBT people - then they will lose their freedom. Organizations that cannot afford to pay their taxes are not free. Presumably, they will not be able to spew forth their disdain for marriage equality for free. Then, apparently, religious freedom is over because churches cannot behave like bigots and then our entire liberal society is dead.
If we forbid religions to discriminate — or empower the government to regulate how and against which behaviors a church is permitted to discriminate — we will have effectively ended religious freedom.

Are liberals really prepared to begin treating such bedrock religious tendencies — tendencies that go back to the beginnings of human culture and lie at the foundation of every civilization ever known — as beyond the bounds of acceptable thought and behavior? And to use state power to stamp them out?
We don't want churches who condemn same-sex marriage to not be able to afford their buildings! That would be terrible! I wonder if there were arguments like this from racist white churches after abolition of slavery?

(Image source)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

South African Congregation Stripping, Eating Frogs & Hair Weaves

A girl eats another congregant's hair weave. 
So there's this church in South Africa which appears to be full of people suffering from pica - or at least suffering from an extreme religion-induced disconnection from reality.

Penuel Mnguni, self-described prophet, ministers to End Times Disciples Ministries and appears to get thrills from convincing his flock to do all kinds of crazy things -- and he's apparently young and charismatic enough to pull this off.

Back in May, he convinced everyone to pray... and strip.
Penuel said people condemn him because only the wicked see the naked part of a person. He said there is no shame in nakedness if one really believes in the living God.

“At first it seemed as if the people could handle it,” said a member of the church.

“But as the preacher spoke the heat increased until it was burning hot and they took off their clothes.”

The source said as men and women were stripping down, the church prophet kept telling them: “God is with us, and to God be the glory!”
More recently, he convinced his followers to cut a hair weave right off one woman's head and chow down on it -- without any seasoning at all!
In the pictures we obtained from the church's Facebook page, you can see the pastor Prophet Penuel Mnguni of the End Times Disciples Ministries laying his hands on the woman and some women holding the hair in their hands and shoving some in their mouths.

The pictures carry the caption "Man of God held the head of woman of God Thapelo from Mabopane and her hair turned into food for the sons and daughters of God to eat. Everything depends on what we say because we carry life in our tongue."
You can see them eating what appear to be small pieces of cloth, small frogs and what appear to be lizards (and perhaps a snake too) over at their Facebook album.

If this reminds you of another African pastor (Pastor Daniel), who convinced his flock to eat grass, gasolineand then flowers, it's because Mnguni considers that man his spiritual father. So if this ministry spreads across the region, expect even more bizarre stuff.

This is all quite sickening. If you view the images, it really does seem like there is some element of sick fascination the pastor has with eating bizarre things. However, this unique shtick of his could also be a result of a fascination with something else as well.

Turkish TV Interviewer LOLs When Theologian Forbids 'Oral Sex In Advanced Dimensions'

In Turkey, when secular bloggers need a good laugh, they turn on their televisions to hear the latest sex advice from theologians - who are all very keen to share tips on what will get you off without sending you to Hell. A few weeks ago, we heard about the theologian who warned us all that masturbation would make your hands full of babies.

Well, just today, some more fine sex advice came from renowned Turkish theologian  Ali Riza Demircan, who kindly reminded us all that butt sex and BDSM would get you thrown into the everlasting fires of hell. Thanks, Ali, we already knew that.

Demircan wasn't done with just that though. He wanted to make it very clear that licking and sucking your beloved's naughty bits was also expressly forbidden! In fact, he felt the need to tell everyone that no matter how much of a cunninglingus god you are, you're still damned for eternity.

This caused his interviewer, seasoned television personality Pelin Cift to completely lose it.
But already trying not to laugh, she could no longer restrain herself when Demircan went on to declare in the same monotone that “oral sex in advanced dimensions” between couples was also “haram.”

Cift collapsed into laughter with her hand pressed to her face, much to the astonishment of Demircan who said: “Pelin, sister, you had been talking so comfortably. But now you can’t even ask a question!”
You probably don't understand Turkish, but I recommend watching it just because Cift tries valiantly to keep it together but ultimately loses it.

What's sort of shocking is that these old theologians don't seem to think twice about how ridiculous it is to sit there are tell people what they can do in bed together. For a group that has a problem with sadism, they all seem to have no problem whatsoever with using the theology of their religion to be tops with everyone else being bottoms.
The baffled Islam expert asked the presenter: “What’s your problem with me?”

By now almost unable to speak for laughing, Cift, one of Turkey’s best known presenters, asked the theologian: “What’s your problem, my dear hoca!” using an Islamic term of respect for a teacher.

The incident from the show called the “Other Agenda” went viral on social media, with one Twitter user posting a picture of himself in a locked iron mask to protect himself, he said, from “advanced oral sex.”
Beware of advanced oral sex.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Bangladeshi Politician Jailed For Hurting Religious Sentiment, Branded 'Atheist' & Life Threatened

Abdul Latif Siddiqui
Atheist bloggers aren't the only ones in Bangladesh who need to be very careful about what they say. Politicians also risk being murdered for expressing any opinion which could inflame the rage of Islamic terrorists.
“He will be killed wherever he is found. No atheist has been spared since the independence of Bangladesh,” the Dhaka Tribune quoted Maulana Junayed Al Habib as saying at an Iftar gathering at Jamia Madania Madrassa in Dhaka.
Apparently, Al Habib is a representative of an organization which represents some 70,000 religious schools - Islamic madrassas. The fact that he has the gall to speak this threat in public and that he's not immediately hauled off to jail for it, says a lot about the current state of human rights in Bangladesh.

In fact, Bangladesh is an excellent study case of what happens to a so-called secular nation in which religion has assumed such primacy that it has now effectively become a terrifying theocracy.
Slandering religion and “hurting religious sentiment” are illegal in Bangladesh. Vigilantes have also taken the law into their own hands. This year alone, suspected fundamentalists have killed three secular bloggers in separate machete attacks.
Murdering politicians who happened to say something impious is perfectly okay, though.

Siddiqui was fired by the Prime Minister while he was abroad in New York. He made the fatal mistake of pointing out that perhaps the Muslim Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, the Hajj, might be a bit of a waste of money.
“It is sheer waste of manpower. Some 20 lakh [two million] people have gone to Saudi Arabia. They have no work to do. It is deduction, rather than production. They are spending and consuming. They are taking the country’s money to Saudi Arabia,” he said in alleged footage of the event posted on YouTube. 
They are taking the money of a rather poor country and transferring it en masse to Saudi Arabia - a mind-numbingly rich human rights abuser.

For this comment, he got seven months in prison. He is now on bail. Apparently, he lives in a secular country. His lawyer had this to say.
“Atheism is not illegal in our country and we do not have Sharia Law to demand [the] death sentence [for] atheists. The government should take stern action against all irrespective of their political or other identities in such cases,” Barua told the Dhaka Tribune. 
Keep repeating this and perhaps someone might believe you. It's been clearly demonstrated that atheism will get you murdered in Bangladesh by mouth frothing, machete wielding religious lunatics. The government appears to be taking stern action by apparently being scared shitless of the terrorists and making mealy mouthed excuses.
They say “it is a sensitive matter” and that they plan to persuade the groups not to stage confrontations during the holy month.

“The government is monitoring the situation carefully and nobody would be allowed to create any law and order situation during Ramadan,” a minister told BenarNews, requesting anonymity.
Sounds like they're handling this situation like a boss! Laying down the law in Bangladesh!

Meanwhile, protesters appear to still be in need of some delicate persuasion not to slice this politician - who is not even necessarily an atheist - to ribbons.
Members of Islami Oikyo Jote – also a part of Hefazat – marched in Dhaka’s Lalbagh area on Tuesday to protest his release.

“The atrocious atheists and murtads (infidel) are being patronized by granting Latif Siddiqui bail. They will not be allowed to live in this country,” Mufti Faizullah, secretary general of the Jote, said, according to the Dhaka Tribune.
Why are the authorities not throwing this man into jail? I guess jail time might further offend his delicate religious sensitivities. 

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