26 November 2010

CHRISTIANS BEHAVING BADLY #21: hiring a hitman

In my attempt to show that being religious
is not a guarantee of moral behavior,
this is just one post in my series of reports featuring
the bad behavior of religious people, past or present....

A former Roman Catholic priest has been charged with plotting to kill a teenaged boy. Unfortunately for the priest, the 'hitman' he tried to hire was an undercover police officer. On 11/23/10, John Fiala, 52, was charged in Texas with one count of criminal solicitation to commit capital murder. Bail was set at $700,000.
Apparently Fiala offered a neighbor $5000 to kill the boy. The neighbor called authorities who sent an undercover agent to speak to Fiala. Their conversation was caught on audio and video tape.
The teen's lawyer said the priest met the boy in 2007 and started giving the 16-year-old gifts including a computer and a car.
The boy filed a law suit in April accusing Fiala of raping him at gunpoint later that year and also filed against the church for covering up the priest's behavior. The sexual abuse continued through 2008 during private catechism classes and in hotel rooms.
The youth reported that Fiala had threatened him with physical violence and death. He also threatened to harm the boy's girlfriend and family if he ever revealed what had happened. The threats often came via daily text messages with Fiala threatening to kill himself and telling the boy they would 'go to heaven together.'

Finally in October 2008, the boy told a school counselor who reported the abuse to authorities, however Fiala was not arrested nor indicted on counts of sexual assault on a child until September 2010, and then he was freed on bond.
After the priest's arrest in the murder-for-hire plot, the teen, his family and lawyer are relieved the man is now in jail.

In Omaha, NE, the archdiocese has revealed that in 2002 a minor reported sexual abuse by Fiala which had taken place in the mid 1980s. Apparently nothing was done, except for moving the priest to another parish, as had/has been the Catholic church's practice. Finally when the San Antonio archbishop learned of the police investigation in 2008, Fiala was removed from active ministry.

Look for other posts showing the bad behavior
perpetrated by Christians and members of other religious groups.

For more information on the above topic search for "John Fiala" online.

17 November 2010

New Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1


Mark Twain's outspoken views on religion were often suppressed by his only surviving daughter and by Twain's own biographers. Twain directed that some of his writings not be published until 100 years after his death. This year, 2010, marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's passing. Finally, the autobiography that Twain wished to be published is being published in 3 volumes. The first was made available, just this month.

Here is one of the many things Twain had to say about religion in the new version of his autobiography:

"There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing, and predatory. The invention of hell measured by our Christianity of today, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the deity nor his son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled."

An excellent review of the new autobiography can be found at:

09 October 2010

Happy 70th Birthday, John Lennon

John Lennon
October 9, 1940 - December 8, 1980

Imagine no religion.....

29 September 2010

NON-BELIEVERS GIVING AID


As I mentioned in my previous post, I do not donate money to religious organizations, even though they may be doing good work. My reason is that, in many cases, the relief workers are more interested in converting people than meeting their basic needs in a time of hardship or disaster.
There are plenty of secular groups which provide relief, so I choose to donate to them.
Non-Believers Giving Aid and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science have partnered with Doctors Without Borders to help people whose lives have been shattered by natural disasters, such as those in Haiti and, more recently, Pakistan.
All donated money, every cent, is forwarded to Doctors Without Borders.

If you are interested in contributing, please click HERE.

26 September 2010

WHAT PEOPLE BELIEVE


Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we’ve recently heard about the growing number of Americans who believe President Obama was not born in the U.S. and is a Muslim, not a Christian.
I recently took a survey on the Association of Religions Data Archives which also brought up some disturbing statistics for me.
Some questions could be answered yes or no, but some had 5 choices from “always” to “never” or “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Thus, unless one answered “never” or “strongly disagree” the respondent believed the statement to some extent or other.

The statistics are from a 2005 Baylor Religion Survey.

By answering the survey questions on the ARDA website, one’s own results are compared to the 2005 survey. The results come up in two columns, comparing others like oneself (age, gender, and religious affiliation) and comparing oneself to the entire study group.

Some results follow:
As reflected the in graph above, those who believe in:
God 89%
Satan 73%
Heaven 82%
Hell 71%
Purgatory 41%
Angels 80%
Demons 66%
Armageddon 55%
Rapture 49%
Ghosts 46%
Despite these high numbers of belief, when asked if they had experienced a miraculous, physical healing, only 31% said they had. Only 6% had a vision of a religious figure while awake and only 14% had heard the voice of God speaking to them.
Many people think God is slightly more involved in their own lives than in everyone else’s. While 85% think God is directly involved in world affairs, 86% think he is involved in their own affairs.
On the other hand, they think their own sins are of slightly less concern to God than other people’s sins. While 87% think God is angered by human sin, only 85% think he is angered by their own sins.
And, of course, there are those who believe that God favors the United States in world affairs (57%) and that God favors one political party in the U.S. (43%.) Gee, I wonder which party that is.
When it comes to the paranormal, 76% assume that science will discover Bigfoot & the Loch Ness Monster, 78% think places can be haunted, 65% think astrology impacts one’s life and personality, and 87% believe it is possible to influence the physical world through the mind alone.

Other questions were about abortion, sex, alcohol, pornography, stem cell research, consumer consumption, taking care of the sick and needy, and seeking social and economic justice.
I found it interesting that while 57% think it is important to convert others to their religious faith and 86% think it important to teach others their own morals, only 40% think it important to seek social and economic justice for others. These statistics are why I never donate to religious organizations, which (in my opinion) are often more interested in converting people in disaster areas (such as Haiti) than in helping the people with their basic needs. I gladly donate to non-religious relief organizations.

To take the ARDA online survey, click HERE.

* * * * * * *
Religious fundamentalists alone are a huge popular grouping in the United States, which resembles pre-industrial societies in that regard. This is a culture in which three-fourths of the population believe in religious miracles, half believe in the devil, 83 percent believe that the Bible is the "actual" or the inspired word of God, 39 percent believe in the Biblical prediction of Armageddon and "accept it with a certain fatalism," a mere 9 percent accept Darwinian evolution while 44 percent believe that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years," and so on. The "God and Country rally" that opened the national Republican convention is one remarkable illustration, which aroused no little amazement in conservative circles in Europe.

--- Noam Chomsky

speech to the Library Information Technology Association

June 1992, San Francisco

* * * * * * *

17 May 2010

CAN CHRISTIANS AND ATHEISTS LEARN TO GET ALONG?

CHRISTIANS AND ATHEISTS
(SOMETIMES) BEHAVING BADLY

I recently ran across an article from November 2007 called "10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On" by David Wong at cracked.com.
Wong seems to be able to see both sides of this issue. Brought up in a Pentecostal church, he says,""I soured on the whole religion thing in my teens, as you can probably imagine, and then came back to it later kind of on my own terms." He says his friends are about equally divided between Christians and non-believers.
He points out how these two factions infuriate each other, Christians by claiming atheists really do believe but are just rebellious and warning atheists of their futures in everlasting hell, and atheists by pointing out how irrational or stupid believers are.
Wong thinks, with a little respect for each other, we can agree on much and need to do so.
While I disagree on some minor points, I do agree in general with most of what Wong says. There are over 400 comments, some from those pointing out flaws in Wong's reasoning, while others who didn't seem to get the message still condemning each other for their beliefs of lack thereof.
I have always tried to respect the beliefs of others. Most of my friends are Christians and I don't go around telling them they are idiots for believing what seems totally irrational to me. They probably wouldn't be my friends if I did. But I have to admit that often I ask myself, "How can this intelligent person believe what makes no sense at all?" I have to remind myself that I was indoctrinated into Christianity and believed it blindly until I was about twelve. Why did I see the inconsistencies and violence in the Bible while they missed it?
Part of the answer is that I was forced to read the Bible cover to cover, several times, whereas most of my friends know few details from the Bible beyond the nice parables in the New Testament. Yet my parents and sibling read the same things I was reading. They remained devoted Christians.
The fact that I even have this blog indicates my frustration at being surrounded by Christians who judge me based on my unbelief, even though they don't know me. I am frustrated by those who think morality comes only from religion, specifically their particular brand of religion. I am frustrated by those who try to bash me over the head with religion. And I am frustrated by religious people who try to interject religion into secular political issues.
I can also see that religious people are threatened by the wave of atheist literature that has been on the best-seller list over the last decade, not only because atheists are brazenly open about their denial of gods, but also that the books are so popular. Since we know most people "preach to the choir" so to speak, most of the books are probably purchased by people who are already non-believers or by those who have serious doubts about religion. If the books are selling so well, there must be millions and millions of atheists out there. Religious people fear a moral decay if others don't have the same basic beliefs as they do.
They need not fear. Most of the people I know, be they Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or other, have the same or similar core values. Some of the issues on which we disagree (abortion, homosexuality) seem to have been manipulated by politicians or religious leaders to attract attention or to gain or keep power. That doesn't mean there are not people who have strong beliefs on both sides of those issues, but I think our differences have been blown out of proportion by master manipulators who relish widening the gaps between us.
Whether or not you take the time to read Wong's entire article, and I strongly encourage you to do so, I would be interested in your comments --from both believers and non-believers.

(Remember my comment policy: I welcome opposing opinions as long as they are not abusive or preachy. Comments from "Anonymous" have been blocked due to numerous spam-ads received in the past.)

16 May 2010

ALAN ALDA on RELIGION

ALAN ALDA
b. 1936
actor and nonbeliever

Excerpt from "Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself"

"I sat next to a young woman on a plane once who bombarded me for five hours with how she had decided to be born again and so should I. I told her I was glad for her but I hadn't used up being born the first time. Nothing stopped her. She was married to an acquaintance of mine, and I couldn't turn her off. I left the plane with an ache in my head the size of a grapefruit. I'm certain she led a life that was meaningful to her and had just had five meaningful hours of it. But it didn't mean she was living the good life. And for five hours neither was I. Fight for what you believe in, they say. Serve a higher purpose than yourself. This will give you fulfillment. It can also turn you into the lady on the plane. Or even a terrorist. Terrorists may feel more purpose in their lives than other people do, but that doesn't mean terrorists are any better off, and neither are the rest of us.
"If I was going looking for meaning, I didn't want meaning that would betray other people, and I didn't want it to betray me. I wanted it to last.... I didn't want to wake up someday and find that what had once given meaning to my life was as stale and tasteless as yesterday's gob of gum.
"For a while in my teens, I was sure I had it. It was about getting to heaven. If heaven existed and lasted forever, then a mere lifetime spent scrupulously following orders was a small investment for an infinite payoff. One day, though, I realized I was no longer a believer, and realizing that, I couldn’t go back. Not that I lost the urge to pray. Occasionally, even after I stopped believing, I might send off a quick memo to the Master of the Universe, usually on a matter needing urgent attention, like Oh, God, don’t let us crash. These were automatic expulsions of words, brief SOS messages from the base of my brain. They were similar to the short prayers that were admired by the church in my Catholic boyhood, which they called 'ejaculations.' I always liked the idea that you could shorten your time in purgatory with each ejaculation; what boy wouldn’t find that a comforting idea? But my effort to keep the plane in the air by talking to God didn’t mean I suddenly was overcome with belief, only that I was scared. Whether I’d wake up in heaven someday or not, whatever meaning I found would have to occur first on this end of eternity."

OTHER ALAN ALDA QUOTATIONS (from other sources):

"I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I'd said in a book I wrote that I wasn't a believer. I guess in a world uncomfortable with uncertainty, an unbeliever must be an atheist, and possibly an infidel. This gets us back to that most pressing of human questions: why do people worry so much about other people's holding beliefs other than their own?" (2008 interview for the Edge Foundation website)

"Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in."

"I used to be a Catholic. I left because I object to conversion by concussion. If you don`t agree with what they teach, you get clobbered over the head until you do. All that does is change the shape of the head." (from an interview in "Ms." magazine)

"Jean Paul Sartre says in 'No Exit' that hell is other people. Well, our task in life is to make it heaven. Or at least earth."

“Here's my Golden Rule for a tarnished age: Be fair with others, but keep after them until they're fair with you.”

"When people are laughing, they're generally not killing one another."



13 May 2010

DOES GOD EXIST? "Snowbrush" answers the question


I've been following the SNOWBRUSH blog for quite a while. Snowbrush is the screen name of a man who grew up in Bible-belt Mississippi and now lives in Oregon. He has been blogging since 2003.

There are several posts on his blog explaining his religious and non-religious background, including his post of 5/12/10, "Does God exist? Why I think the answer is no" which is a well-thought-out explanation of his reasons for being a non-believer.

Check it out and while you are there, check out some of Snowbrush's other posts, too. Snowbrush is an interesting character and has many tales to tell.

WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF INTEGRITY

If I had enough time, I could publish at least a dozen posts each day filled with nothing but religious people behaving badly. My previous 2 posts were about Christian hypocrisy and now one more example has come to light.


Integrity Bank was founded on "Christian principles" in 2000 in the Atlanta area. The bank's founder Steven Skow, a Lutheran, said "We weren't selling religion. We just managed the bank on godly principles, like the golden rule."
If that is true, then those religious principles must have included conspiracy, fraud, bribery and insider trading.

A federal indictment was unsealed last week against two former bank vice presidents, Douglas Ballard and Joseph Todd Foster, along with developer Guy Mitchell.
When government regulators shut down Integrity Bank in 2008, it was assumed that it was just another lender that had overvalued the real estate market.
"But this bank was robbed from the inside," said U.S. attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
From 2004 to 2006 loans of $80 million had been made to Mitchell who made few, if any, payments on them. Meanwhile, he was living a luxurious life, even purchasing a private island with his borrowed funds. In return for lenience, Ballard was paid more than $230,000 in bribes. Ballard and Foster are also accused of insider trading, for when they realized the bank was going to fail, they dumped Integrity stock, making millions for themselves before its collapse, leaving the bank's shareholders and the FDIC holding the bag.
Skow, who left the bank in 2007 and is not implicated in the indictment, said he lost $22 million in stock.
Skow said the bank gave 10% of annual profits to churches and faith-based charities, donating $1.7 million in 2007. The bank gave free Bibles to customers. Employees prayed together at meeting.

I wonder if they were praying for their own personal gain instead of for god's help in running an ethical business. And maybe they they were just kidding when they named the bank "Integrity."

For more information:

09 May 2010

CONTEMPTIBLE PATHETIC HYPOCRITES

"Being gay cannot be cured.
Being a contemptible pathetic
hypocrite can be cured."
---Rachel Maddow 5/7/10





For more information on this issue, see my previous post:

08 May 2010

HYPOCRISY WITH 2 CAPITAL R'S


HYPOCRISY WITH 2 CAPITAL R'S:
REKERS & RENTBOY

hypocrisy
: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform

Anti-gay activist
George Rekers
outed by
Miami New Times



My husband will attest to the fact that I get emotional over stories about almost anyone's misfortune. I cry at sad movies. I blubber over news reports. I've had to pull my car off the road while listening to heart-wrenching stories on the radio because I couldn't see through my tears.
Yet, I admit that when I witness the public exposure of a hypocrite, even though it may be a personal tragedy for the sanctimonious fraud, I can't help but experience a certain perverse glee.
I have no problem with gay sex between consenting adults. What annoys me is when someone does everything in his power to condemn homosexuality and then engages in the very behavior he condemns.

George Alan Rekers is a Baptist minister and one of America’s leading anti-gay activists and a board member for the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a prominent “ex-gay” organization that claims it can "cure" gay people. Yet Rekers hired a companion from rentboy.com to accompany him on a ten-day trip to Madrid and London.
While Rekers claims he had no idea that his companion was a prostitute when he hired him to carry his luggage, Miami New Times reports that Rekers admitted he met his escort (who the newspaper calls Lucien) at rentboy.com, a website that is transparently gay. Later he claimed that he took the boy to Europe to introduce him to Jesus.

"Rentboy.com... is the only website on which... [Lucien] advertises his services. Neither Google nor any other search engine picks up individual Rentboy.com profiles... You cannot just happen upon one.
"To arrive at Lucien’s site, Rekers must have accepted Rentboy.com’s terms of use, thereby acknowledging he was not offended by graphic sexual material. He then would have been transported to a front page covered with images of naked, tumescent men busily sodomizing each other.
"Then Rekers must have performed a search. Did he want a “rentboy,” a “sugar daddy” or a “masseur”? In what country? And what city? If Rekers searched for a rent boy in Miami, he would have found approximately 80 likely candidates. He must have scrolled down the first page, past the shirtless bears and desperate ex-models, and on to page 2. There, at last, was Lucien."
Rekers stated, "It is absolutely true that I hired... [Lucien] and he worked for me as a travel companion and not as a prostitute."
Rekers advised Lucien to avoid the press. However, the young man made statements to the Miami New Times that contradicted Rekers' statements that he hired him to help with his luggage and that he was trying to save the soul of a lost sinner.
[Lucien] "...has told Miami New Times the Baptist minister [Rekers] is a homosexual who paid him to provide body rubs once a day in the nude, during their ten-day vacation in Europe.
"Rekers allegedly named his favorite maneuver the 'long stroke' -- a complicated caress 'across his penis, thigh... and his anus over the butt cheeks,' as the escort puts it. 'Rekers liked to be rubbed down there,' he says."
As was pointed out on another atheist blog, "Hypocrisy among Christian religious extremists is as commonplace as weird facial expressions from Sarah Palin." We must remember that Rekers' probable gay sex isn't the issue. The issue is that Rekers has time and again vilified homosexuality ---and is a hypocrite as well. According to Rachel Maddow, Rekers recently was listed as a member of a group which sent a letter to all 14,800 school superintendents in the country to explain that homosexual feelings among their students can be treated with therapy. (Incidentally, the letter was produced by the American College of Pediatricians, a right-wing anti-gay group that is trying to hoodwink people into believing it is the real physicians group, the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Along with James Dobson, Rekers co-founded the Family Research Council. He is considered a leading scholar for the Christian Right and has influenced government by advising Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Rekers was paid $60,000 to be an "expert" witness against gay adoption in Florida and he testified against gay foster parents in Arkansas for another large fee. Yet, Rekers frequently takes in foster children and adopted a 16-year-old boy four years ago.
Oops! Did he perhaps testify against himself?
NARTH has been predictably silent on this situation but promises a statement soon.

Sources (which include more information):

(Indented statements in green are quoted from the Miami New Times website.)

20 April 2010

ATHEIST HUMOR 2 - The Adventures of God

I just happened on a post at collegehumor.com and found it hilarious, just like the Bible stories it is mocking. Check it out.

19 April 2010

THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT GETS IT WRONG (AGAIN)


When U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb (Wisconsin) ruled the Congressionally-mandated National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, leaders of the Religious Right pulled their heads from the sand and let out a huge yelp.
They said things like:

"Since the days of our Founding Fathers, the government has protected and encouraged public prayer and other expressions of dependence on the Almighty..." (Shirley Dobson of Focus on the Family)

and

"It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition..." (Jay Sekulow of Pat Robertson's Center for Law and Justice)

Actually, the court decision is not attacking our heritage, but is upholding it. Anyone who has read about our Founding Fathers, their views on religion, and their reasons for leaving god out of the Constitution should know better.
James Madison, who is considered to be the Father of the Constitution, thought presidential prayer proclamations nourished the idea of a national religion. Thomas Jefferson believed the decision to pray or not should be an individual choice.
And as for the National Day of Prayer being a time-honored tradition from the early days of our country, it was enacted by Congress less than 60 years ago.
Judge Crabb said that by enacting the National Day of Prayer statute, “the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.... Recognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic. In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray.”

(Source: The Wall of Separation blog, 4/16/10)

09 April 2010

REASON REJECTED - Francis Bacon



Francis Bacon
1561 – 1626

1st Viscount
St Albans, KC

English philosopher,
statesman and essayi
st






I have mentioned here before, that recent studies have shown that it is almost impossible to change someone's mind about a long-held belief. In fact, it seems that the more facts and well-reasoned arguments one gives, the more the believer digs in his/her heels to accept that belief even more than previously.
Sir Francis Bacon knew this when he wrote the following, nearly 400 years ago (1620) ---and I'll bet he didn't use a scientific study to figure it out.
"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate.... And such is the way of all superstitions, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, although this happened much oftener, neglect and pass them by."
Today (April 9, 2010) marks the 384th anniversary of Francis Bacon's death.

As quoted in
Why People Believe Weird Things
Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

by Michael Shermer
See this and other Michael Shermer books below.


02 April 2010

PURE GREED

The seven deadly sins are supposed to be pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. Although I don't believe in sin (acts that are transgressions against divine law) most of these behaviors can be harmful to oneself and a few can be harmful to others. Some are mere personal failures and some are definitely unethical behaviors.
The one I find most abhorrent is GREED. Legally, any money one earns is his/her own to do with what s/he wants, but ethically, I ask, just how much money does any one person need to live a comfortable life? And how can someone make a billion dollars and not feel some need to help those who have so much less?

I saw a news report on NBC yesterday about hedge fund managers who have turned the economic downturn into a personal boon. The 25 top earners in 2009 increased the value of their personal wealth by $25 billion, an average of $1 billion each. The top earner, gained $4 billion for himself.
When they realized the government was not going to allow banks to fail, they scooped up bank stocks at bargain prices. Since the market has gone up dramatically, these people are living like royalty. One has a 35-room mansion with an in indoor pool, an outdoor skating rink, and his own Zamboni.


I like to play with numbers to figure out what that much money would mean. Most of the people pictured in the report looked to be at least in their forties, so I figure most will live about 40 more years. If they stuffed their mattresses with their money and never earned a penny in interest, dividends or capital gains over those 40 years, they would each have $25 million (before taxes) per year or over $2.83 million each month.
According to Census Bureau figures for 2007 (couldn't find anything more recent) the median household income in the U.S. was a little over $50,000/year. A household in the median range would have to work more than 40 years to earn what these guys would have for one month.
I'm not sure if I could manage to spend $2.83 million for the rest of my life, let alone in one month.

Since the Christian population of this country hovers around 75%, we can assume that about 3/4 of these people are Christians. I'm wondering how many of them will greedily keep all the money for themselves and how many might use the money in more productive ways. Perhaps most of them think "Christian charity" is charity only to themselves. I wonder how many know that Jesus instructs those who wish to go to heaven to give all their money to the poor:
"And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? . . . Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matthew 19:16-21. See also Luke 12:33.

Now, I really don't expect anyone to give away everything they own, but some charity is certainly warranted for those who are raking in billions.
If each of these top 25 earners would give away half of their 2009 gains, what could their $12.5 billion buy for those who are struggling?


250 million pair of $50 shoes or 500 million pair of $25 shoes
or
$50 worth of groceries for 250 million people worldwide
or
125,000 homes (at $100,000 each)
or
416,667 mobile homes (at $30,000) for residents of Haiti
or
pay one month's mortgage (at $1500) for 83 million families in jeopardy of loosing their homes
or
pay 833,333 small businesses $15,000 each to help pay the salary of one new employee
or
provide health care for 1.04 million families for a year


There are a zillion more things they could do with their money:
AIDs prevention campaigns in Africa
re-train laid-off workers
vaccinations
basic health services for the poor
medications for senior citizens who can't afford to pay for their own
literacy classes
build/renovate schools
environmental needs
scientific or medical research
clean water in poor villiages

The list could go on an on.

Several years ago, I found a list on CNN Money listing the richest people in America. Five members of the family that owns Walmart were numbers 17-21 on the list, each worth over $17 billion. If each of those people were responsible for, and the sole supporter of, 20 people (including themselves) for the next 80 years, each of those 100 people would have about $7800 to spend each day. And these are the people that can't afford to pay for health care for their workers.

I'm sorry, but no one is worth a billion dollars, and absolutely no one deserves their own personal Zamboni.


UPDATE: August 4th 2010
Non-believers Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced that they had come up with the idea called "The Giving Pledge" and had convinced 40 American billionaires to pledge at least half their wealth to charity and will continue to call on the other 350 billionaires in the U.S. to take the pledge, resulting in approximately $600 billion in charitable donations.


* * * * * * *

You might find this interesting:

Ecclesiastes 5:10
Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.

1 Timothy 6:7-10
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Proverbs 28:27
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.

Proverbs 28:20
....he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

Deuteronomy 23:19-20
You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

Matthew 5:42
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

31 March 2010

IS RELIGION A GUARANTEE OF MORAL BEHAVIOR?


(This post was originally published in February 2009.
I made some revisions and am posting it again.)

My answer to the title question is an emphatic NO!
I’m not saying all religious people are immoral. The examples I give below represent a very tiny percentage of the religious community. What I am saying is:
Being a believer is not a guarantee of moral conduct.

"Morality is not determined by the church you attend or the faith you embrace. It is determined by the quality of your character and the positive impact you have on those you meet along your journey." ---as stated on The Immoral Minority blog.


Societal health:
A study by the Journal of Religion & Society (2005) concluded: “Higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies... Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.”
The Cambridge Companion to Atheism came up with similar findings. High levels of atheism are strongly connected with high levels of societal health: low homicide, poverty, infant mortality and illiteracy rates, high levels of educational attainment, per capita income and gender equality.
In a 1999 study, George Barna, found the percentage of people who have divorced as follows:
Jews = 30%
Born Again Christians = 27%
Mainstream Christians = 24%
Atheists/agnostics = 21%
While I don’t personally believe divorce is immoral, many religious groups think it is a sign of moral weakness.
Ron Barrier, Spokesperson for American Atheists commented: "These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years... It stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage... Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage."
James Veverka, in "The moral hypocrisy of the Bible Belt," remarked: "We hear an awful lot from conservatives in the Bible Belt and on the TV about how we all should be living. Certainly a culture that teaches the conservative religious values of the Christian right must have clean living written all over it... It doesn't. Far from it... Joining its history of Biblically correct bigotry and discrimination, it is an area with the highest divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. As a region, the Bible Belt has the poorest health care systems and the lowest rates of high school graduation."

Sex and religion:
James A. Haught: “Western religions have spent millenia inflicting shame, guilt, repression and punishment upon human sexuality... The West presents... a long chronicle of religious hostility to lovers -- for no rational reason... Every censorship effort, every attempt at sexual repression, still comes from religion.” (“Sex and God: Is Religion Twisted?Free Inquiry, Fall 1997)
Episcopal priest Raymond Lawrence wrote in a national United Methodist journal: "The churches are in danger of evolving into havens for the sexually suppressed or, worse, communities of profound hypocrisy." (Quarterly Review, summer 1985)
Dan Barker, former evangelical minister and current co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation contends that when religious zealots spend so much time thinking and preaching against sex and homosexuality, they become obsessed with it, and eventually they cannot control their sexual urges.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, another co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation) wrote Betrayal of Trust, Clergy Abuse of Children (1988), which chronicles hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by priests, ministers and rabbis in the U.S. I can't help but think that her husband Dan Barker (above) was right.
When an avalanche of accusations against priests, for sexual misconduct, hit my local area, the newspapers were filled with letters to the editor blaming the church for not allowing priests to marry. However, priests who like young boys are not interested in adult women. Others were saying that pedophiles were joining the church to have easy access to children. But one psychiatrist who had treated some of the perpetrators wrote an article that made more sense to me. He argued that men who were Catholic and knew they had a problem, chose to become priests because they thought that if they prayed enough, were pious enough, read the scriptures enough, they would be cured. We see how well that worked.
I was astounded to learn that some bishops were directing priests to deny communion or even recommend excommunication to church members who were openly pro-choice, while at the same time pedophile priests were merely slapped on the wrists and allowed to move to other parishes.


The news media have covered extensively the sexual scandals of Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggert, all three ministers who were either morally bankrupt or, at the least, hypocrites. Thus I will not go into the details here. However, suffice it to say they preached often about moral weakness and sin, then did exactly what they were preaching against.

Morality and politics:
I know our lawmakers cannot be perfect and I don’t expect them to be. But when they campaign on moral issues, then disappoint us, then they are hypocrites.
U.S. Representative Mark Foley (Catholic & Republican) who was known as a crusader against child abuse and exploitation, resigned following a scandal involving teenage male Congressional pages. His replacement, Tim Mahoney (United Methodist & Democrat) ran on a platform of restoring morals to Washington. What did he do? He had a two-year affair with a former staff worker. Just about the time that hit the news, it was discovered that he had been cheating on that mistress with a second mistress. Larry Craig (Methodist and Republican) who repeatedly voted Nay on gay rights issues was caught in an airport restroom, apparently soliciting men for sex.

Religion and crime:
There have been many notorious criminals who were church members. You may remember a serial killer who called himself BTK (Bind, Torture and Kill) in Kansas. David Rader, who killed at least 10 people, was a Deacon and the Congregational President of his Lutheran Church.
David Ludwig, the Pennsylvania teenager who killed his girlfriend’s parents was a home-schooled Christian. Mark Chapman who murdered John Lennon had been described by his friends as a “Jesus freak.”
One of the evilest Christians I know of is Fred Phelps, the preacher who pickets and disrupts military funerals. He physically and psychologically abused his wife and all of his children. The only reason he is not in jail is that he convinced his sons that if they told the truth and he was put on trail, that they would go to hell. Phelps is convinced homosexuals are responsible for all the evils in the world. (His son Nate's blog, A Journey to Reason, tells much of his journey from his father's home to atheism. Read his speech to the American Atheists HERE.)
In a report from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (1997) approximately 80% of the U.S. population claimed some affiliation with a religious group and 80% of the U.S. prison population stated a religious preference. Logical, right? But then why, if (at that time) 10% of the general population claimed to be atheist, only 0.2% of the prison population said they were atheists? There are many religious people who argue that prisoners choose to say they are religious because there are benefits to doing that in prison. If that is so, then our prison system is violating the church/state separation provision of the Constitution.
One of the biggest crimes of all, which senselessly kills innocent people every day, is terrorism. Many people don't want to admit that the terrorists are religious people, but that is exactly what they are. They may be of a different religion than those who are shocked by their immoral acts, but as I pointed out in a previous post, Christians killed at least 50,000 people, just as senselessly during the 1st Crusade, and did it in the name of Christ.

Steve Allen: “It is frequently argued that a return to formal religion is the solution to the problem [of corruption.] But the prescription leaves something to be desired, for one finds practically no formal humanists, agnostics, or atheists in the ranks of the corrupt. Most of the embezzlers, swindlers, con-men and thieves... are card carrying members of one religion’s denomination or another that formally pays respect to the Old and/or New Testament.” (Ripoff, a look at corruption in America, 1979)

I repeat, I’m not saying all religious people are immoral. These cases represent very few people among the religious. What I am saying is that being religious is not a guarantee of moral conduct.

William Lobdell: “To the chagrin of evangelical pollsters and leaders, Christians–for the most part–don’t act any differently than atheists. And, in fact, in some categories (divorce rates and racism) evangelicals act worst.”

I know most religious people are good, honest, ethical people. Most non-religious people I know are also good, honest and ethical, yet they aren’t that way because they fear retribution in the afterlife.
copyright 2010 C. Woods


Click on this link for an article by Paula Kirby: "Morality: no gods required."
Click on this link for an article by Austin Cline: "Irreligious People Just as Ethical as Religious Churchgoers"




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