The Converts: They Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

Check out this web series called The Converts. Episode 2 is my favorite. Here is the official trailer:

Go to their website to check out more, and laugh your ass off.

Minister Arrested in Prostitution Sting

Here is another story of a minister-gone-wild. This time the offense was a bit more damning than a minor affair. Robert Franco Jr. was a 30-year-old minister from Medford, New Jersey who was one of 34 people arrested in March by a prostitution sting going on in Richmond, Virginia. Franco had gone to Virginia for a wedding and while he was there decided to get a little action on the side when he picked up a prostitute . . . undercover police officer. I’m not sure this is what Jesus meant when he asked his followers to look for lost souls.

One of the most disturbing things about this case is not the fact that Franco was cruising the streets looking for a prostitute, if you can believe it. If he had only been looking for a hooker and nothing else it wouldn’t be much of a story.

No, the shocking detail about this story is that he brought his two-year-old child along for the ride during the solicitation. Suddenly this “victimless crime” isn’t so victimless. Richmond Police Major Michael Shamus made this statement about the arrest, “It was a different type of case, I mean, a different scenario than they’re used to. You don’t see people bringing their two-year-old infant. So that was a first for me.”

Franco had been a minister at Fellowship Alliance Chapel, working with the middle school youth ministry. The church released this statement:

We were very sorry to learn about what happened,” Snyder said. “We’re sorry for everyone involved. Rob was a trusted member of our staff, well-known and well loved. At this time, we have absolutely no evidence that he ever harmed or acted inappropriately toward anyone from our church, young or old. His arrest is devastating, however, for him, his family, and our church family.”

. . .

“Other staff members have known Rob since college, and he worked here nearly a year and a half without concerns ever being raised by the background checks or by anyone in the church.”

Franco faces charges of soliciting prostitution and felony child endangerment. Prostitution and solicitation are class one misdemeanors. While he would have faced a slap on the wrist punishment, probably a fine with the possibility of a short jail sentence, the felony child endangerment charge could end up landing Franco in prison for a long time. And for good reason! Seriously, leave your children at home before looking to pick up a hooker on the side of the road.

The sad thing about these kinds of situations is Christians rely on Jesus to give them strength to overcome temptations and live a righteous life. So instead of using self-control, so many times religious people put situations like this in god’s hands. Resigning themselves to the fact that they are essentially powerless to control their lives. But there isn’t a magic man in the sky to help you live a better life. The only person with the power is the person themselves. You are the one who will keep you from being a criminal, cheating on your wife, and living a life of despair. So the next time a Christian wants to lay a temptation at the foot of the cross, maybe they should practice a bit of self-control instead.

Muslim and Jewish Leaders Join Forces Against Circumcision Ruling

On June 26,2012 a regional court in Cologne ruled that circumcision for religious reasons causes unnecessary bodily harm. The court also stated a child’s right to physical integrity is more important than religious and parental rights. The botched circumcision of a four year-old boy leading to medical complications brought this case to court.

Male circumcision is nothing more than an ancient religious superstition and it is nice that the German courts have decided to put the health of baby boys ahead of a parents religious rights. After such a ruling it comes as no surprise that religious groups are lamenting this ruling that steps on their toes. In a surprising twist, Muslim and Jewish groups have joined forces to denounce the German circumcision ruling. They released this joint statement:

We consider this to be an affront [to] our basic religious and human rights. Circumcision is an ancient ritual that is fundamental to our individual faiths and we protest in the strongest possible terms against this court ruling.

To that end we will vigorously defend our right to maintain our mutual tradition and call on the German parliament and all political parties to intervene in overruling this decision as a matter of urgency.”

Religious leaders who signed this statement include: the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, the European Jewish Parliament, the European Jewish Association, Germany’s Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, and the Islamic Centre Brussels. I guess we have finally found out what can bring these often antagonistic religions together . . . genital mutilation.

This type of ruling is long overdue; it is just too bad the ruling was not binding. Hopefully it will set a strong precedent against future circumcisions in German courts.  We should allow boys to grow into adults so they can make their own informed decision about circumcision. If an adult man wants to cut off his foreskin to make his god happy, then by all means we should not stand in his way. Mutilating defenseless babies is what I detest. Circumcision at birth has nothing to do with religious freedom, it is religious oppression. This ancient tradition has no place in the 21st century.

Reason and Creationism

Eugenie Scott gave this talk about Reason and Creationism at the  2012 Global Atheist Convention.

Pastor Tommy Sparger Resigns After Moral Failure

Tommy Sparger was the pastor of North Point Church, a local mega-church here in Springfield, MO. He resigned last week due to a moral failure. I was turning on the television last night (to play Skyrim) when I saw the news report embedded above.

When my wife and I first moved to Springfield several years ago, in the months before I realized I could no longer believe in the Christian faith, North Point Church is the church we attended. The church is contemporary, laid back, and focused on relationships. In the months I attended I don’t think the topic of Hell ever came up. I mean, this church just reworked the Team America song, “America, Fuck Yeah” for a Father’s Day video a few weeks ago. So you can get an idea the audience they were shooting for, young people disillusioned with the hypocritical churches of their parents.

Eventually we stopped going because I became an atheist (my wife an apatheist) and even the glossy Christian message presented in this church began to annoy me. Assertions about religion without evidence are still frustrating . . . even if their presentation is about as non-offensive as humanly possible. The simple act of asserting something without evidence is offensive to someone who can no longer believe in things based on faith.

I doubt details of this moral failure will come to light [I was incorrect on this point, Tommy publicly admitted to an affair, as noted in the comments below]. The information should probably remain between Sparger and his family, assuming nothing criminal transpired. I wish the Sparger family the best during this painful time. I hope as they reevaluate many things in their lives they can also use this time to take a second look at their reasons for believing in the Christian faith.

Massive Group of Mormons Resign in Salt Lake City

I just read a story about an awesome mass resignation ceremony conducted in Salt Lake City yesterday. Around 150 Mormons from all around the country gathered in a park to publically denounce their faith.  They signed a document dubbed “The Declaration of Independence from Mormonism” and collected formal resignation letters for sent to the Mormon Church.

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its culture of obedience, and the mass ceremony was a seldom-seen act of collective revolt.

After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.

At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of ‘Freedom,’ cheered, clapped and hugged.

‘It’s been a hard journey and this is a symbolic end,’ said event organizer Zilpha Larsen, of Lehi, Utah. ‘I just hope that it boosts people up and helps them feel more comfortable in their decision.’”

These recent ex-Mormons listed the church’s activism against gay marriage, Mormon history of polygamy, and scriptural issues like The Book of Abraham as reasons they could no longer stay in the faith.

I am really encouraged by this brazen act of defiance. The Mormon Church has a strangle hold on so many people who want to leave but for whatever reason they cannot find the courage to change. For many members of this religion their family, social, and professional lives are deeply entwined in the sect. I feel like this assembly of ex-Mormons meeting up in the shadow of The Salt Lake Temple publically abandoning the church will give many of reluctant Mormons the strength to leave.

Kris Fielding, a sixth generation Mormon, expressed his relief after leaving the Mormon Church, “The monkey’s off the back . . . I don’t feel like I have to explain myself or the positions of the church anymore.” It is my sincere hope that everyone living with the cognitive dissonance of a religion they can no longer justify will have the strength to get the monkey off their back!

Highway to Hell

In case anyone was wondering about this, I am apparently leading people to the dark side. Yesterday a woman named Debbie sent me an email and she was concerned about my evil website.

Subject: Your website

Be very carefully what you’re saying for you are leading souls astray. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. The god of this world has blinded you. Seek Jesus and read the Word for one month. At least give Him that, for you will spend an eternity without Him. He will reveal Himself to you; His words are faithful and true, age to age. Seek & you shall find, ask & you will receive, knock & it will be opened unto you!

I have spent plenty of time seeking Jesus, believe me.

For years I sought Jesus in the Bible, in altar calls, in seminary and guess what . . . I never found him. The more I learned about the mythological man from Galilee the less believable he became. The idea that I owe Jesus one more month of Bible reading before he sends me to an eternity without him is silly. He would send me to Hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched . . . a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth and for what great crime would I be sent there? I picked the wrong answer on the multiple choice test of faith.

Meanwhile, child-porn patrons get to go to heaven’s pearly gates, enjoying mansions Jesus prepared for their creepy after-life, simply because they guessed the right answer?

If anyone owes anyone anything, Jesus owes us all a bit of concrete evidence and some sort of explanation.

As to all the souls I am leading astray with this website, welcome! If my random thoughts about religion are enough to pry you away from your faith, then I am thrilled. If I were really up against an all-powerful being you would think it would be harder to deconvert people. A bit of rational thinking seems to do the trick and doesn’t that demonstrate the absurdity of religion all the more?

So, thank you Debbie! Thank you for the best compliment I have ever received. I hope I continue to “lead souls astray” from religion for a long time to come. Leading someone astray from lies and bondage to reasoned and free thinking is a lofty goal.

Do’s & Don’ts of Starting a Cult

Just in case you ever wondered, here is an easy four step guide to taking over the world with your very own cult.

Child-Porn Lands Duenweg Missouri Pastor in Prison

Michael A. Crippen, a 53-year-old former pastor, was sentenced last week to nearly four years in federal prison after he plead guilty to possessing child pornography. Examiners discovered more than 300 images of child pornography on Crippen’s laptop. Federal court records show some of the images were of children less than 10 years of age. After his prison sentence is completed Crippen will remain supervised for an additional 20 years.

This is a story that goes back three years, to August 23, 2009. On that day, Crippen logged on to the internet and found his way to a website in the Netherlands from which he downloaded several images of child pornography. Later when asked by investigators Crippen stated he did not recall his actions on that day, but admitted the images downloaded were “typical of what he looks at on the Internet.”

Around this time the Dutch National Police were investigating the same website in the Netherlands for its illegal child pornography. The Dutch National Police contacted the international police organization Europol with information on users who had downloaded images from the website. Europol in turn provided information to federal and local authorities who were able to trace the downloads from the Dutch website to Crippen’s address.

On October 13, 2010 a Homeland Security agent and a police detective assigned to the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force arrived at Crippen’s home. At first the pastor lied about his actions to the police and denied any knowledge of child pornography being downloaded on his computer.

In parenthesis, I would like to take a moment to remind everyone . . . don’t talk to the police. If you do, certainly don’t lie to the police, but really it’s better not to talk at all. It doesn’t matter if you are guilty, innocent, or think you are innocent; the Fifth Amendment exists for a reason so don’t talk to the police. Nothing you tell them can be used in your defense, so shut up. /PSA.

Crippen later decided to admit his guilt to investigators, citing his job as a pastor as the reason he previously lied. Saying that being a pastor made it difficult for him to admit (mainly because he would lose his job I assume). This fear of admitting to child pornography because of his occupation highlights the fact that Crippen’s moral compass is skewed. He should have been afraid to admit it because it is a disgusting felony, not because of a slight embarrassment in front of his congregation. He admitted he had been viewing “adult and child pornography” on the internet for years. Stating, “he normally looks at porn, then feels ashamed and deletes the images.” In fact, he admitted tossing several images into his computer’s trash bin earlier that day.

This is the moral skewing I was talking about . . . casually lumping adult and child porn together. Had Crippen been looking solely at adult, legal porn he never would have had a real problem. Sure, there would have been some guilt involved, but he wouldn’t have been victimizing children with his patronage of their abuse. But to Crippen there was no difference between child and adult, he viewed it as equally evil. This lack of moral understanding has landed him in prison.

Crippen, Catholic priests, religious leaders are supposed to be the arbiters of “god’s perfect moral code” and it seems many can’t even differentiate between legal and illegal. They cannot see the difference between consenting adults and victimized children. It’s too bad morality has been hijacked by religion, its obvious that needs to change.

Crippen told the police he had prayed to God for help with his problem, I am not sure this is how he meant to have his prayers answered . . . but I don’t think he will be looking at any porn for a long, long time. Thankfully, we have technology and police to track these sorts of people down, because no god sitting in the clouds was going to lead us to Crippen’s door.

Religious Mother Terminates Relationship with Atheist Son

David Reekie started a blog called davetrash in April 2012. The main reason for starting his blog was to respond to a letter his mother sent him in which she announced her decision to terminate her relationship with her son while he remained outside the faith. Reekie was born into the Jehovah Witness faith and raised to follow the church’s teachings from his earliest memories. Reekie had a lot of cognitive doubts about the faith and became aware that calling himself a “believer” was a lie. While he had reasons to doubt in his mind, the thing that ultimately leveraged him to leave the Witnesses was his heart. Reekie met, fell in love with, and married a non-Jehovah’s Witness woman. This unequally yoked situation forced him to decide between his religion and his relationship with his wife. He is now a happily married unbeliever.

The Jehovah Witnesses believe in something called disfellowshipping, a command from god that must be followed. Just look at this excerpt from the Watchtower (April 15, 2012 p.12) “Consider just one example of the good that can come when a family loyally upholds Jehovah’s decree not to associate with disfellowshipped relatives. A young man had been disfellowshipped for over ten years, during which time his father, mother, and four brothers ‘quit mixing in company’ with him . . . the burning desire to be with [his family] became one motivating factor in his restoring his relationship with Jehovah.” Here we see the sermon illustration ideal for the church’s sick use of family relationships as bargaining chips persuading people to believe.

The letter from Reekie’s mother (original photos here):

“My darling son David

You are so very special to me and have always been the love of my life. I used to think when you were little that I would die for you, and live because of you. You meant the world to me and I will always love you very much.

Because of this love I always wanted you to have the happiest, safest life I could provide and tried to bring you up with the strongly held beliefs I lived by, in the hope that this would affect your own life for the good, and ultimately you would live forever in Paradise on earth.

You know all this to be the case.

I personally have always believed in The Truth as presented in the Bible, and have always felt the strong presence of Jehovah God and Jesus in my life, even as a child. I have always believed the prophecies in the Bible, and that there will be a paradise on earth in which everyone will live in peace and love with no war, sickness and death, and that the dead will be resurrected due to Jehovah’s justice and fairness. I have always lived my life with all this in view, and have never sought a worldly, secular career or pathway. Becoming one of Jehovah’s witnesses was the obvious next step for me.

This letter is being written by me with no outside coercion or influence because there are things I want to say to you.

Being in The Truth has never been easy, but when all is said and done, I am in it because of my belief in Jehovah and what he has done for us, and will yet do.

People will always let you down, and somehow we have to look above and beyond, and the bigger picture. So to say that some people who profess to be Christians live in ways that show them to be hypocrites is not exaggeration. But I strongly feel that whilst they may fool themselves and others, they can’t fool Jehovah, and ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.’

I have chosen my path and my way of life and so I must live by the commands and statutes laid down in the Bible by Jehovah himself. One of these commands has been the cause of great stress and grief to me, and I have put it off for too long now. I realize that I would have benefited spiritually by doing things Jehovah’s way from the start, and I must emphasize that what I am about to say to you is not influenced by any other living person, but is purely directed by my conscience and a desire to regain my peaceful friendship with God. Nobody can make me do anything I don’t want to do.

Whilst this is singularly the most painful thing I have ever had to do in my entire life, I need to move forwards towards the goal of everlasting life, and to this end I deeply regret that I must terminate our relationship whilst you remain disfellowshipped.

I have cried myself dry over this situation, and it has broken my heart, but David, you have known that it should have been handled this way from the start. You have chosen your path in life, and I wish you all the best. I want you to know that not only will my love always be there for you, but Jehovah too is waiting with open arms for your return.

Your loving mother, now and forever.”

This is another example of a family torn apart by the commands of an all-loving god; such wonderful love. The idea of unconditional love is central to religion. I believe this mother thinks she is showing her unconditional love for her son by cutting off ties, but it is the exact opposite. I will always love you, so will Jehovah . . . as long as you believe in our religion and meet our conditions. If you leave the faith you might as well be dead to these people. It is sickening. I cannot understand how a mother could put her religious cult above her desire to have a relationship with her own flesh and blood, but people do it all the time. The desire to live eternally in a mystical fairyland is strong enough to break all the ties they should hold dear.

This is no different than any other Christian faith, because the Christian bible demands this:  Deuteronomy 13:6-10 – “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

I am just glad most people outright ignore the Old Testament sections of their Bibles (except for the bits about homosexuality of course . . . can’t forget those parts).