Wednesday, February 19, 2020
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98-Year-Old Anti-Gay Televangelist Ernest Angley Settles Sexual Abuse Lawsuit | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist


At long last, Pastor Ernest Angley, the 98-year-old head of Grace Cathedral church in Akron, Ohio who admitted to having gay sex with one of his staffers in an audio recording obtained by the Akron Beacon Journal, has settled a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse.

The settlement includes a non-disparagement clause, which means neither side will be able to trash-talk the other in the future. It may be good news for the man who brought the lawsuit assuming he got money in the settlement, but it’s yet another instance of Angley avoiding true accountability for his actions.

As we’ve posted in the past, his career has been marred by a series of unethical and illegal actions.

Just a few years ago, members of his church sued Angley for never paying them despite working at his for-profit Cathedral Buffet restaurant. They were considered volunteers, but that’s illegal for the same reason McDonald’s can’t hire “volunteers” to prepare your food: If customers can’t tell the different between paid and unpaid staffers, something’s wrong. Sadly, Angley eventually won the case when an Appeals Court said the minimum wage laws only applied if employees expected to get paid, and these volunteers didn’t.

In 2017, a county government sued Angley on behalf of a 76-year-old woman with dementia who they said was coerced into writing his church a check for $340,000.

That same week, he was sued over a defaulted $3.6 million loan for his broadcasting network.

The case that was settled last week involves a former staffer, Brock Miller, who sued for sexual abuse that occurred over the course of several years. When Miller resigned from the church, Angley’s staff told the congregation he was a liar, drug addict, alcoholic, and an adulterer.

But the allegations were mindblowing.

The first allegation of sexual misconduct Miller alleges in his lawsuit happened just prior to his wedding. Still a virgin at age 19, he had questions about sex that he wanted answered. He naturally went to Angley.

“And instead of giving me an answer like a pastor should, he said, well, I’m going to have to see your penis,” Miller recalled. “I trusted this man, I really did. I trusted him. I didn’t think he had any bad intentions.”

Angley advised Brock to masturbate. He complied.

Years later, when Brock’s wife became ill, Angley, he said, blamed the couple’s sex life. He ordered more special massages… just for Brock.

Brock’s moment of clarity came in Angley’s bedroom during another anointing. Laying in Angley’s circular bed, Miller naked, as usual.

“He said, ‘I’d really like to teach you how to give a good [passionate kiss] and I said, instantly, I said, No! No! And it was just like the veil was completely lifted from my eyes and I saw him in that moment for the monster that he is.”

After all that trauma, I hope Miller got the closure he needed. But terms of the settlement aside, this hardly seems like a fair punishment considering how much damage Angley has caused throughout his life.

(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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These Subversive Bible Memes Feature Adorable Babies | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist


How many people actually read those images with Bible verses before sharing them?

That’s the premise for a series of subversive pictures — a.k.a. “International Children’s Bible Daily Devotionals” — by the page Why I’m Not:

There are so many more where those came from. Post one of them online and see how many of your religious friends give it a Like.

(Thanks to Sean for the link. Portions of this article were published earlier)

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Dems vs GOP: Voter Confidence in Scientific Method


Pew Research Center recently carried out some research with regard to science and voter preference. The piece is interesting and worth a read, but what stuck out for me was the confidence in the scientific method.

As Pew stated:

Factual knowledge alone does not explain public confidence in the scientific method to produce sound conclusions. Overall, a 63% majority of Americans say the scientific method generally produces sound conclusions, while 35% think it can be used to produce “any result a researcher wants.” People’s level of knowledge can influence beliefs about these matters, but it does so through the lens of partisanship, a tendency known as motivated reasoning.

Beliefs about this matter illustrate that science knowledge levels sometimes correlate with public attitudes. But partisanship has a stronger role.

Democrats are more likely to express confidence in the scientific method to produce accurate conclusions than do Republicans, on average. Most Democrats with high levels of science knowledge (86%, based on an 11-item index of factual knowledge questions) say the scientific method generally produces accurate conclusions. By comparison, 52% of Democrats with low science knowledge say this. But science knowledge has little bearing on Republicans’ beliefs about the scientific method.

Voters with low baseline scientific knowledge showed little difference in approach to the scientific method, but those with medium and high knowledge showed marked differences when taking political preference into account. There will almost certainly be a religious component in here; Republicans are far more likely to be strongly (evangelically) religious, and with this comes a completely compromised view on science, its method and scientific findings. You may get a fairly scientifically literate Republican, say in an area of materials science, who denies evolution or climate change (i.e., AGW). Such a cherry-picked approach to science and the scientific method will produce these widely variant data sets.

It’s nothing I wouldn’t have predicted, but useful data nonetheless.


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Baylor Students Furious After Chapel Speaker Offers Prayer to Mother Nature | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist


Baylor University recently invited storyteller and poet Kaitlin Curtice to speak during the religious school’s required Chapel program this past week. She’s a Native American and Christian who frequently speaks about oppression.

But her speech became controversial when she offered a prayer to “Mother Mystery.” She referred to it as a way to honor the land they built upon.

That upset a lot of students who can’t handle any sort of “prayer” that isn’t made directly to their personal God.

You can watch it around the 14:10 mark below:

“There’s a lot of people really mad. A lot of alumni are pretty mad. I mean, she didn’t pray to God and that’s what’s most offensive,” said Jake Neidert with the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas.

“She began prayer in the service in the name of Mother Mystery and I looked up, you know, and looked around and there’s 12-hundred freshmen bowing their heads to this thing that’s not God,” Neidert said.

You can see in the video that Curtice even tells students that if they don’t want to think about what she’s saying as a “prayer,” they can just think of it as a poem.

Imagine the arrogance it takes — even at a Christian university — to get angry at someone for showing respect for nature. Even if her wording suggested a reverence for nature, students were still free to pray to whatever God they chose. Not everything has to be about you, even at a Christian prayer service.

Baylor itself caved to the pressure, sending a letter to parents saying Curtice essentially went off-script. Don’t blame them! It wasn’t their fault! There’s no indication they said anything to students that amounted to “It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. You’ll make it through.”

Curtice didn’t respond to a request for comment from a local news station, but she also doesn’t have to say anything. She did nothing wrong. She spoke about exactly what she said she’d speak about. The problem is that living in a bubble isn’t enough for some Christians. They need another one to isolate themselves from ideas that might challenge their beliefs.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

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Intrusive Christian Proselytizing Needs to End Now


bench bicycle bike

Many Christians have told me over the years that they do not personally convert anyone to Christianity or save any “souls.” They insist that only the god in which they claim to believe can do these things. I suspect they may do this, at least in part, because they sometimes hear how arrogant they sound. “Fair enough,” I say, “Then why is it that I only see you on my front porch spouting drivel and not your god?” It seems like a waste of everybody’s time, although I have to admit that my only real concern here is my time. If the proselytizing Christian wishes to waste their time, they are free to do so but need to go somewhere else.

Some Christians, presumably the more evangelically-inclined, will offer something about how they are “called” to spout their preferred form of nonsense to anyone who might listen. Others will go so far as to claim that their god is using them (i.e., working through them somehow). As ineffective as they are, that always strikes me as an incredibly poor choice for such a wise being to make. If it was interested in converting me, it could probably come up with a more effective means of doing so. In fact, I have a hard time imagining a less effective approach than the never-ending parade of proselytizing Christians!

It seems clear that proselytizing has nothing to do with gods and everything to do with the people doing the proselytizing. They aren’t there to represent any sort of divine power; they are there for their own power, social status, personal satisfaction, and so on. Knocking on my door to ask me ridiculous questions fed to them by their pastor provides them with some sort of perceived real-world benefit. The thing is, I will accept no obligation to endure it. If they cannot discover a way to practice their religion without imposing it on others, then they need to try a new religion or none at all.

“What do you expect? You live in Mississippi.” Yes, I am well aware of where I live and what that means. I have been here long enough that you can be sure of that. But I will no longer accept where I live as an excuse or hold my tongue when I am interrupted with evangelical Christian nonsense. It is 2020, and it is appalling that this sort of thing is still happening anywhere in the United States. Perhaps it would help if more of us reacted like we would when faced with anything else we consider appalling. I think I can do my part.

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Rush Limbaugh: Trump Would “Have Fun” Mocking Buttigieg for Kissing His Husband | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist


Is anyone more obsessed with gay sex than conservatives?

Right-wing bigot Rush Limbaugh fulfilled the stereotype this week when he suggested presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg would be unelectable for kissing his husband in public.

Even if you give him the benefit of the doubt — which he doesn’t deserve — Limbaugh was saying Democrats would worry about nominating a gay candidate out of fear of the country’s bigotry. But he also laughed at the possibility of Donald Trump making fun of Buttigieg for it. Because showing affection for your same-sex husband — instead of your third or fourth wife — is just a travesty.

A gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages. Can you see Trump have fun with that?

They’re looking at Mayor Pete, 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they’re saying, OK, how’s this going to look, 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there? And they got to be looking at that, and they’ve got to be saying, that despite all the great progress and despite all the great wokeness, and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president. They have to be saying this, don’t they? Now, there may be some Democrats who think that is the ticket. There may be some Democrats who think that’s exactly what we need to do, Rush. Get a gay guy kissing his husband on stage, ram it down Trump’s throat, and beat him in the general election. Really. Having fun envisioning that.

First of all, we’re talking about chaste pecks, not full-on making out or even an Al Gore-style smooch. But it’s quite telling that, rather than engaging with Buttigieg’s policies, Limbaugh thinks people would be disgusted by his sexual orientation. (He’s not making Trump look any better by saying he would mock Buttigieg for sport over his marriage.)

For what it’s worth, Gallup just found that 89% of Democrats would have no problem with a hypothetical gay presidential candidate. If Buttigieg is the nominee, that number would undoubtedly get even higher.

Buttigieg’s sexual orientation is arguably the most unimportant, irrelevant character trait when it comes to being president. If Limbaugh actually cared about sexual history, he would have plenty to criticize in the current White House. But Limbaugh isn’t interested in logic or reason. He just wants to offer red meat to a hungry right-wing base.

(Screenshot via YouTube)

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The Limits of Tolerance | Atheist Revolution


Painting by Titian of Tarquinius' son raping L...Image via Wikipedia

As you have undoubtedly observed, some atheists are fond of calling on other atheists to be more tolerant of religious belief, nicer to religious believers, and the like. There may be some merit in doing so, especially if one is interested in changing minds. People tend to be more receptive when they feel respected or at least not attached. Still, it might not be a bad idea to think through these suggestions a bit before we all hop on the tolerance bandwagon and convince ourselves that we should withhold criticism of an irrational and dangerous belief system.

In my experience, those calling for increased tolerance of religious belief are often aiming to silence criticism of religious belief. I am aware that this is not always the case, but it often seems to be the case. As a result, many atheists are not what I might call receptive to such suggestions.

Do you know what a rape myth is? Briefly, psychological research has demonstrated that male rapists and other men predisposed to commit acts of sexual violence against women are more likely than the average man to hold erroneous beliefs about male-female interactions, female sexuality, and the like. In non-offender samples (e.g., male college students), the tendency to agree with rape myths has been associated with negative attitudes toward women and more positive attitudes toward violence against women.

If we consider just a few examples of rape myths, these findings will not surprise you.

  • “Women secretly enjoy being raped.”
  • “Women ‘ask for it’ by their dress or actions.”
  • “If I spend a lot of money on our date, she owes me sex.”

Imagine a male college student who agrees with these and other similar myths. This is not the sort of guy most women would be eager to date. His thinking is distorted to the point where we would probably place him at an elevated risk of engaging in sexual assault. It isn’t that we’d know he would assault others, but we’d expect him to pose a higher risk of doing so based on the science.

Fundamentally, rape myths are a type of belief. Irrational and dangerous beliefs, but beliefs nonetheless. Would any rational person suggest that we should be tolerant of these beliefs? Perhaps we could still be kind to the person holding them (especially if we were to encounter them in a treatment setting), but would we not seek to modify beliefs of this nature once we recognized the harm associated with them?

But there is a world of difference between rape myths and religious beliefs, right? After all, there is solid evidence that what we regard as rape myths really are myths (i.e., those that can be disproven have been disproven). While there is next to no evidence that most religious beliefs are true, this is not quite the same thing as having solid evidence that they are false. But is that enough of a difference?

Much like the religious believer, there are many men out there who hold these beliefs and maintain them even when confronted with evidence to the contrary. Some may even tell you that they are a source of comfort and that they are inseparable from one’s identity. Like religious beliefs, these beliefs are irrational. Like religious beliefs, these beliefs are harmful. Or at least, they are associated with attitudes and behaviors we consider harmful. Why would we tolerate them?

We wouldn’t, and we shouldn’t. My point here is not really to compare religious beliefs to rape myths; my point is merely to note that some types of beliefs do not warrant our tolerance. We all tend to draw a line excluding beliefs that are irrational and dangerous from the sphere of tolerance.

If you’d like to spend more time with Christians, do so. Many are great people who can be wonderful friends. I agree with those who suggest that we should all strive to be more tolerant of them as individuals. Still, their beliefs are no more immune to scrutiny than ours are. I think it makes sense that we’d have relatively little tolerance for some of what they believe. Tolerance is not always our best response.

An early version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2008. It was revised and expanded in 2020.

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Dave Daubenmire: The Halftime Show Opened a Portal and Infected Me With a Virus | Beth Stoneburner | Friendly Atheist


Last week, radio host Dave Daubenmire made the ludicrous claim that he was going to sue the NFL for putting his soul in mortal danger thanks to the salacious dancing of Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

This week, Daubenmire went even further, announcing that some sort of demonic virus must have passed through his TV screen during the halftime show and infected him.

“What if there is a [demonic] spirit that accompanies the visual of the pornography?” Daubenmire asked. “What if that opens up, what do they call it? A portal? A threshold? … What if sitting there, watching that soft pornography dance across our TVs, what if there’s a spiritual component to that? What if there is something that comes out of my screen?”

“What if there’s some waves? What if there is something that comes off of that video?” he continued. “What if there’s something, waves or some force that comes off of that? What do they call that stuff? Dopamine. What if that unleashes something in my brain? What if it’s like really and truly infecting me with a virus? What if it is really like that?”

It’s the halftime show. Not The Ring.

This is the sort of claim you’d expect to see in Charisma magazine (home of the demonic squid), but it’s ridiculous even by Daubenmire’s already low standards.

But he doesn’t have to worry. Viruses don’t transmit through the TV. The only potential virus you can get from viewing pornography is a computer virus.

Now if only he would get this outraged about actual scandals… like refugee kids in cages. Instead, he saves all his rage for the least important issues.

(via Right Wing Watch)

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Religious Symbolism, Semper Fi and Virtue Signalling


I wrote some time ago, when you couldn’t have a conversation with someone even slightly right of centre without being accused of virtue signalling, that everyone virtue signals. Almost all the time. In the clothes you wear, the music you listen to over-loudly, in the politics you spend your lunchbreaks trying to convince others of adhering to.

One of the ironies is that the very people who often accuse liberal lefties like me of virtue signalling are the ones who do it themselves. There is a commenter here called John Crawford – a gun rights advocate who sits on the political right, far removed from snowflakes like me. He finishes every single one of his very many comments with “semper fi”. From Wiki: Semper fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” or “always loyal”. It is the motto of the United States Marine Corps, usually shortened to Semper Fi.

Why bother putting this if not to let every single person he is talking to and every single reader of the blog comments thread know that he used to be in the Marines, and that his words and opinions, therefore, carry some extra weight or dimension. This is about s virtue signally as you can get. And the irony is delicious.

Interestingly, the same can be said of those who wear religious symbols like a crucifix. What job does it do other than to send a signal out to everyone who sees you that you are a Christian, and that this infers something like you being good for it? So many Christian ever accuses you of virtue, signalling, the first question to ask then is whether they are presently wearing a crucifix or any form of religious symbolism. And this includes bumper stickers on their car got. If this happens, you’ve got to call this out for what it is: hypocrisy.

Virtue signalling ain’t just the purview of liberal snowflakes.

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The Value of Theology (and Monks): Is It Morally Optimal?


Sometimes, I think too much. And here might be an example. Okay, so this might depend on your moral value system in the first place. Let’s take the faith vs works/deeds argument. Does faith in JesusGod get you into heaven (or simply please God), or is it the good actions that you do on Earth? Or both?

I have been questioning recently whether I do enough good in the world. I sit here preaching about morality, being on the right side of the moral spectrum, and castigating those who are not. But all I am doing is thumping away angrily at my keyboard, preaching to a choir (thanks for sticking around, people), and occasionally (seemingly pointlessly in my constituency) voting. I need to get out there more, again, and put my money where my mouth is.

  • Religion, Psychology & Morality: Most People Aren’t Very Nice

Look at a monk, or a life-long theologian, buried away in their books or in ascetic penitence. A theologian might spend decades researching some exegetical or theological aspect to, say, Christology, that few people will bother caring about. Okay, so that (elitist) understanding might itself have some at least limited positive benefit to the religious world from then on.

But how much of what monks and theologians do is genuinely about making the world a better place. So much of what people do is self-serving in that it gives them pleasure. I enjoy blogging and philosophising, so I do it. When the blogging and writing that I do has a moral dimension, am I practising what I am preaching?

The nature of religion, qua Christianity, is that it is necessarily moral in scope.

You could ask whether enough is done by everyone on Earth, but this piece is more about those who profess moral superiority – do they really put their money where their mouth is?

The thing about morality and religion is that witnessing ends up being the moral deed. A Christian is obligated to spread the word and bring as many people into the fold as possible to save them. What bigger moral action could there be other than saving someone’s soul for eternity? Is sending shipments of Bibles to Haiti (rather than food or hands to help) genuinely a morally great thing to do if it manages to eternally save the soul of even a single person?

Perhaps a theologian’s work fits into this paradigm such that their tiny piece of the jigsaw helps create the picture of coherent salvation through Christ. I suppose the Christian world absent of theologians would be somewhat problematic in their campaign to convince the whole spectrum of potential believers into their fold. This jigsaw approach might work for a theologian, but a monk? How are they adding in any meaningful way to the moral progress of the world? Monks have always struck me as quite egocentric.

Speaking of coherence, I’m not sure this ramble is… But, suffice to say that I am questioning my own moral output at the moment (I don’t want to be theologian-lazy* and merely see my writing work as adding to the jigsaw of philosophy and politics that others can benefit from, though it is hopefully that too). In questioning my own state of affairs, it is interesting to wonder the moral value of others who instead spend their lives carrying out the work of God. They are building up their faith – is it enough to say that their deed is providing theological sandbags for other believers to use to sure up their beliefs from the inundation of reason and contrary evidence flowing on the currents of the internet.

But, and here’s the final big but (I like big buts, I cannot lie…): all of the wonderful things that Christians do, are they ultimately not just self-serving? Is everything about getting themselves into heaven? #justsaying

(* I’m sure there are many theologians who spend many long hours volunteering and donating to charities and helping their neighbours.)

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