8/20/2005                                                                                       View Comments

God & Evolution:

Intelligent Design Theory,
George W. Bush & the Question of God

by Michael Shermer

Intelligent Design (ID) creationism has resurfaced in the news again after President George W. Bush’s remarks were (mis)taken by IDers to be a solid endorsement by the president and his administration for the teaching of ID in public school science classrooms. There was considerable media hype over the story, and I did a number of interviews, including a live debate on CNN with lead Intelligent Design theorist William Dembski. As this story unfolded, however, I discovered (to no great surprise) that IDers, along with many in the media, and pundits on both the right and the left, greatly exaggerated Bush’s remarks.

On Monday, August 1, Bush gave an interview at the White House to a group of Texas newspaper reporters in which he said that when he was governor of Texas “I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.” When a reporter asked for his position today on whether ID should be taught alongside the theory of evolution, Bush replied that he did “so people can understand what the debate is about.” But when pressed as to his opinion on whether ID is a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution, Bush wisely equivocated:

I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought. You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

Well of course, but that’s a different question.

So, the claim by IDers and several Christian groups, along with complaints by liberals that President Bush endorses ID, is exaggerated. In fact, Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger 3rd, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology” and “intelligent design is not a scientific concept.” He added that the president’s comments should be interpreted to mean that ID be discussed not as science but as part of the “social context” in science classes, and that it would be “over-interpreting” Bush’s remarks to conclude that the president believes that ID and the theory of evolution should be given equal treatment in public school science courses.


When a reporter from Time magazine asked for my opinion about whether one can believe in God and the theory of evolution, I replied that, empirically speaking, yes you can, the proof being that 40 percent of American scientists profess belief in God and also accept the theory of evolution, not to mention the fact that most of the world’s one billion Catholics believe in God and accept the theory of evolution. But then this reporter wanted to know is if it is logically consistent to believe in God and the theory of evolution. That is, does the theory of evolution — if carried out to its logical conclusion — preclude belief in God? This is a different question. My answer appeared in truncated form in an Opinion Editorial that ran in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, August 7, under the title “Why God’s in a Class by Himself.” This was the editors’ title choice, and it is an interesting one considering what I have to say on the subject. Here is my longer answer.

You can believe in God and evolution as long as you keep the two in separate logic-tight compartments. Belief in God depends on religious faith. Belief in evolution depends on empirical evidence. This is the fundamental difference between religion and science. If you attempt to reconcile religion and science on questions about nature and the universe, and if you push the science to its logical conclusion, you will end up naturalizing the deity because for any question about nature — the origins of the universe, life, humans, whatever — if your answer is “God did it,” a scientist will ask, “How did God do it?, What forces did God use? What forms of matter and energy were employed in the creation process?” and so forth. The end result of this inquiry can only be natural explanations for all natural phenomena. What place, then, for God?

One could argue that God is the laws and forces of nature, which is logically acceptable, but this is pantheism and not the type of personal God to which most people profess belief. One could also argue that God created the universe and life using the laws and forces of nature as his creation tools, which is also logically fine, but it leaves us with additional scientific questions: which laws and forces were used for to create specific natural phenomena, and in what matter were they used? how did God create the laws and forces of nature? A scientist would be curious to know God’s recipe for, say, gravity, or for a universe or a cell. For that matter, it is a legitimate scientific question to ask: what made God, and how was God created? How do you make an omniscient and omnipotent being? Finally, one could argue that God is outside of nature — super nature, or supernatural — and therefore needs no explanation. This is also logically consistent, but by definition it means that the God question is outside of science and therefore religion and science are separate and incompatible.

One more analogy may help make the point. In my January, 2002, Scientific American column, entitled “Shermer’s Last Law,” I modified Arthur C. Clarke’s famous “Third Law” (Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) thusly: Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God. God is typically described by Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent. Since we fall far from the mark on these traits, how could we possibly distinguish a God who has them absolutely, from an ETI who, relative to us, has them in copious amounts? Thus, we would be unable to distinguish between absolute and relative omniscience and omnipotence. And if God is only relatively more knowing and powerful than us, then by definition God would be an ETI!


Therefore, when Intelligent Design Theorists use science to go in search of their God, what they will find (if they find anything) is an alien being capable of engineering DNA, cells, complex organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, and even universes. If we can engineer genes, clone mammals, and manipulate stem cells with science and technologies developed in only the last half century, think of what an ETI could do with, say, 10,000 years of such science and technology. For an ETI a million years more advanced than us, engineering the creation of planets and stars will be doable. And if universes are created out of collapsing black holes, which some cosmologists think is highly likely, it is not inconceivable that a sufficiently advanced ETI could create universes at will.

Since IDers say they make no claim on who or what the intelligent designer might be, I contend that if they continue to try to reconcile their religion with science the end result can only be the discovery of an extra-terrestrial intelligence and the naturalization of their deity.


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On Bush's creation idea

Larry Gasch, an acquaintance of mine, recently wrote a couple of "letters to the editor" on "Intelligent Design" (ID) that appeared in "OPINE," the opinion section of the Star Beacon -- the largest (and only) daily newspaper in Ashtabula County, Ohio. Both letters, in my opinion, were exceptionally well written and pierced straight to the heart of the controversy surrounding this issue.

I called Larry and he agreed to let me post his letters here. This first letter was published in the August 13 issue of the Star Beacon in response to a "pro-ID" article that appeared earlier in the week. Since this newspaper does not archive its stories or opinion pieces on its website, I cannot provide a corroborating link. -- WM


Sir:

Kathleen Parker’s “Conservative View” column of Monday, August 8, addressed President George W. Bush’s comments about allowing “intelligent design” (ID) to be discussed in schools. She correctly observes that Pres. Bush did not specifically endorse ID, rather, he emphasized the free discussion of opposing ideas. Nevertheless, it should be no secret that Pres. Bush pledges his allegiance to the preachers of ID.

Yet Parker states, “What would be the harm in inviting discussion of this new theory alongside others that have the imprimatur of modern science?” She does have a point. My son in Chicago recently sent me the answer to Parker’s question. It goes like this.

Bush told a group of reporters that he feels intelligent design should be discussed in schools. So do I. What the President didn’t say was how it should be discussed, and so, in the spirit of public service, I offer my own intelligent design curriculum, which should be inserted about midway in the two weeks sixth-graders spend learning about evolution and Darwinism. The teacher should sit on his desk, sigh mightily, and say:

"OK, kids, as we know, life on Earth evolved over billions of years, from tiny, one-celled organisms gradually evolving into the complex animals we see today. The fossil record and biological evidence clearly supports this understanding of our world and most scientists endorse it.

“Except, of course, those whose religious faith overwhelms their reason. They cleave to a belief they call intelligent design - basically the notion that, gosh, the world is so darn complex that God had to make it, He just had to. There isn’t any scientific basis for this - it’s the Genesis story from the Bible with a few facts picked out of nature and hung on it like Christmas ornaments, plus whatever inconsistencies in evolution they can find.

“Well, of course, religious faith is a wonderful thing, and in this country everyone is free to believe that the universe was laid as an egg from the Great Cosmic Turtle, as people do.

“But that doesn’t make it scientific fact, and it shouldn’t be taught as an alternative, or an option, or a theory, or anything beyond the vapor of religious dogma it is. Some of your parents might disagree, but you should tell them that there’s plenty of time in church for Bible study, and that it’s only the worst kind of zealous triumphalism that inspires them to try to drape their religious fantasies in a veil of mock science and sneak it into school.”

I quite agree with my son. However, I would go so far as to say ID might be taught in, say, a history class as an example of an historical phenomenon. It might be taught in a sociology class as an example of the debate between competing ideas. It might be taught in a current events class as, goodness knows, it is current. But, most appropriately, it might be taught in a literature class as an example of the power of mythology or fantasy to cloud the critical thinking of otherwise rational people. One thing above all else is certain, intelligent design should never be taught in any science class as it has nothing to do with science.

Lawrence E. Gasch

8/15/2005                                                                                       View Comments

Harvard Jumps Into Evolution Debate

The Associated Press
Sunday, August 14, 2005; 9:33 PM


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Harvard University is joining the long-running debate over the theory of evolution by launching a research project to study how life began.

The team of researchers will receive $1 million in funding annually from Harvard over the next few years. The project begins with an admission that some mysteries about life's origins cannot be explained.

"My expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention," said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard.

The "Origins of Life in the Universe Initiative" is still in its early stages, scientists told the Boston Sunday Globe. Harvard has told the research team to make plans for adding faculty members and a collection of multimillion-dollar facilities.

Evolution is a fundamental scientific theory that species evolved over millions of years. It has been standard in most public school science texts for decades but recently re-emerged in the spotlight as communities and some states debated whether school children should also be taught about creationism or intelligent design.

The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

Harvard has not been seen as a leader in origins of life research, but the university's vast resources could change that perception.

"It is quite gratifying to see Harvard is going for a solution to a problem that will be remembered 100 years from now," said Steven Benner, a University of Florida scientist who is one of the world's top chemists in origins-of-life research.

8/13/2005                                                                                       View Comments

Defrocked priest says church covered up molestations

By Brad A. Greenberg
Staff Writer


Thursday, August 11, 2005 - A defrocked Catholic priest who served in Loma Linda and Ontario claims church leaders protected his pedophilic behavior by passing him among parishes.

Edward Anthony Rodrigue, an admitted serial molester, claims in court papers that he was allowed to continue working at churches despite numerous complaints of sexual abuse.

His statements were filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Diego. Another declaration by a former police officer claimed the Rev. John Daly was moved to San Bernardino County in exchange for prosecutor’s keeping secret his sexual indiscretion.

Both statements, and those made by countless people who claim they were sexually abused, support lawyers’ claims that, for decades, Catholic bishops have protected deviant priests, further endangering children.

J. Michael Hennigan, lawyer for the San Diego diocese, said Rodrigue’s statements were disturbing and cast a pall over former Bishop Leo Maher, who died in 1991.

‘‘But they are one perspective of a very troubled man who is now an inmate at a penitentiary,’’ Hennigan said.

Rodrigue, 68, has been convicted twice of molesting minors – two young boys in Ontario in 1979 and an 11-year-old developmentally disabled boy in Highland in 1997. He is serving a 10-year sentence at Corcoran State Prison.

When Rodrigue was moved to St. George Catholic Church in Ontario, San Bernardino and Riverside counties were overseen by the Diocese of San Diego.

In 1978, the two inland counties became the Diocese of San Bernardino.

The declarations were filed Tuesday to oppose a request by California’s Catholic bishops that the court overturn a 2002 law, which allowed roughly 800 people to sue, claiming abuse by priests.

The church argues that allowing the suits – some that claim abuse happened in the 1950s – is unfair because witnesses and documents are no longer available.

Also submitted was a statement by a former police officer in Holtville, who in 1977 arrested Daly on suspicion of orally copulating a 16-year-old hitchhiker.

Walter Lundstein, the arresting officer and now a lawyer based in Escondido, claimed a prosecutor told him Maher had offered to move Daly out of Imperial County if the district attorney didn’t prosecute.

According to church rosters, Daly, now dead, served at Immaculate Conception in Colton from 1978 to 1981.

Hennigan said he was unaware of that claim. The spokesman for the Diocese of San Bernardino, the Rev. Howard Lincoln, said Wednesday that he had no knowledge of Daly and declined to comment about whether Maher had identified the Inland Empire as a refuge for pedophile priests.

However, he condemned Rodrigue’s admitted behavior.

‘‘There is clarity of 20/20 hindsight in all of this. We are very sorry for the actions of Anthony Rodrigue. His conduct was reprehensible and tragic,’’ Lincoln said.

According to Rodrigue’s court statement, he was accused of sexual abuse during three decades:

In 1976, after a group of parents said their boys had been molested by Rodrigue, he was sent to a treatment center in Massachusetts. But the beds were full and instead he was sent to Our Lady of Soledad in Coachella.

In 1977, the San Diego bishop transferred him to St. George in Ontario, where in 1979 he told a colleague a student had seduced him. He was given a vacation and sent to therapy. Later that year he pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting two boys. Again he was sent for treatment.

In 1981, he was allowed to serve at St. Joseph the Worker in Loma Linda. Rodrigue was removed from ministry in 1982, Lincoln said, and defrocked of his priestly orders in 1991.

And in 1998, he was convicted of sexually abusing the Highland boy.

‘‘The Diocese (of San Diego) made it policy and practice to transfer pedophile priests to where they could hurt more kids,’’ said Joelle Casteix, southwest regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. ‘‘They denied it and denied it. But we are slowly getting proof it is true.’’

Handyman gets probation for role in city corruption case

The handyman at a Berks County church was sentenced Thursday to five years' probation in connection with the city's "pay to play" corruption case.

Following prosecutors' recommendation for a reduced sentence, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson sentenced Jose Mendoza, 46, to probation and ordered him to pay restitution of $57,000. Mendoza had cooperated with investigators.

Mendoza pleaded guilty in August 2004 to falsely telling Commerce Bank that he was general manager of a company that had done repairs to St. James Chapel Church of God in Christ _ a church in Reading where former Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp worshipped.

The company existed only on paper, and tens of thousands of dollars loaned for a church renovation project ended up in the pockets of its pastor, the Rev. Francis D. McCracken, and Kemp, investigators said.


Mendoza allowed himself to be used by McCracken and Kemp in their dealings with the bank but made no money from the scheme, officials said.

McCracken pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to 30 months in prison plus restitution. He used the church construction loan for his daughter's college tuition and other personal expenses, prosecutors said.

Kemp was convicted on bank-related charges and other corruption charges related to his work in City Hall. Last month, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Mendoza testified against Kemp at trial; Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Zack said prosecutors asked for a reduced sentence for Mendoza because of his cooperation.

As part of the sweeping public corruption probe, the FBI bugged Mayor John F. Street's office, but the device was discovered shortly after it was put into place. Prosecutors said they unearthed no evidence that Street had committed any crime and he was not charged.

link

Kevin Graham could face two charges of felony check fraud.

BY JOSH FUNK
The Wichita Eagle


School board member arrested

The arrest of Wichita school board member Kevin Graham surprised those who know him.

His fellow board members and others say they want to hear Graham's explanation for the two personal checks police say he tried to cash Thursday from a long-closed account before passing judgment.

Graham, who is pastor of St. Matthew CME Church, did not offer an explanation Friday. He did not return several calls to his home, church and cell phone, and did not answer the door late Thursday or Friday.

Leonard Wesley, the finance chairman at Graham's church, learned about his pastor's arrest from a reporter Friday morning.

"I didn't know anything about it," Wesley said, but he expressed confidence that Graham and the church would be OK.

"I'm sure we'll work through it," Wesley said.

Graham could face two felony check fraud charges, and state law says he could be removed from office if he's convicted.

No school district policies apply in this case, and school officials say they don't know of any other Kansas school board member being arrested on a felony charge, so there isn't any precedent to follow.

According to a police report, Graham wrote two personal checks Thursday, one for $700 and one for $800, and tried to cash them at Sunflower Bank on West 21st Street.

Under Kansas law, writing a bad check for more than $500 is a felony.

He was jailed at 3:05 p.m. and spent about an hour there before posting $2,500 bail, Sedgwick County Jail records showed. A court date was tentatively set for Aug. 25.

Wichita police Lt. Ralph Clark said Graham would not be charged until after the case is presented to the district attorney's office in about four weeks.

The checks, according to the police report, were from Twin Lakes National Bank, which merged with Southwest National Bank last September and changed its name to Southwest National.

Bank vice president Janette Brooks said customers can still use Twin Lakes checks if they have an active account with Southwest, which has six branches in Wichita.

Brooks said Graham closed his accounts at the bank in 2001 and is not a current customer.

Wichita school officials learned of Graham's arrest when superintendent Winston Brooks received a courtesy call from the city manager Thursday evening, district spokeswoman Wendy Johnson said.

On Friday afternoon, Brooks said he still had not been able to talk to Graham.

"I'd like to hear his side of the story," Brooks said. "I care about him as a person."

Brooks said it is too soon for him to say whether Graham should continue serving in the office he won in April.

Graham received 75 percent of the citywide vote and took office July 1.

"I think we need to be real deliberate about this," Brooks said.

State law spells out a procedure for the district attorney or attorney general to oust elected officials from office if they are convicted of a felony, Johnson said.

There are provisions for voters to petition to recall an elected official convicted of a felony, but recalls can't be launched within the first 120 days of an elected official's term.

None of the recommended board policies from the Kansas Association of School Boards addresses the arrest of a board member.

David Shriver, a staff lawyer for KASB, said he's not aware of another instance of a Kansas board member being arrested in the 30 years that he has been practicing school law.

The Wichita district has a clear policy about what happens when an employee is arrested: In a felony arrest, that employee is suspended with pay until the case is resolved.

But Wichita board members Connie Dietz and Chip Gramke said they'd be reluctant to draft a similar policy for board members that could overrule voters.

"Board members aren't held accountable to board members," said Dietz, the board president. "They are held accountable to their constituents."

Gramke said he'd rather leave it up to the voters to rescind their approval if they choose to.

Board members Sarah Skelton and Lynn Rogers said they wanted more information before commenting on the need for a policy. Mostly they expressed shock.

"My first reaction to is I hope that's not true," Rogers said. "It's hard to reconcile with the Kevin I know."

Board members Kevass Harding and Lanora Nolan did not return calls for comment.

Dietz said the accusation should not be a concern for the district because board members do not have direct access to district money, and the only time board members are reimbursed is for board-related travel, which requires receipts.

"I don't see what impact it would have on the school board," Dietz said.

But Gramke acknowledged that it would affect the board.

"Is it going to be a distraction? Certainly," he said.

But that's not Gramke's first concern.

"I'm concerned more for him personally than I am for his status as a board member," he said.

Aldine pastor convicted of sexual abuse

HOUSTON A longtime pastor of a Pentecostal church in Aldine has been convicted of sexually abusing a teenage girl in his congregation ten years ago.

The Reverend Curtis Bass of the International Pentecostal Church was sentenced yesterday to ten years in prison on two charges of indecency with a child.

A woman, now 26 years old, testified that he touched her breasts when she was 16 years old in 1994.

The 53-year-old Bass said -- quote -- "God is still in control," to dozens of church members seated in the courtroom after his sentencing.

Deputy investigator Russell Ackley of the Harris County Sheriff's Department says three women have lodged sexual abuse complaints against Bass.

Bass testified Wednesday and adamantly denied molesting the girl, but offered no reason for the repeated allegations.

link

Pastor Indicted, Held in Kentucky

He is accused in security-selling fraud.

By Iza Montalvo
The Ledger


FORT MEADE -- The pastor of the First Church of God here has been indicted in Kentucky for selling an unregistered security that cost a small church there about $90,000.

Forrest R. Robinson, 69, of 214 S. Orange Ave., was released from the Boyle County Jail on Wednesday on $10,000 bail, Boyle County Jail Sgt. Ricky Gipson said.

A court date for his arraignment had not been set as of Thursday, according to the Boyle County Clerk of Courts office.

Robinson didn't return telephone calls made to his home in Fort Meade or to the church. Members of the church declined to comment.

Court documents show Robinson was indicted on two felony counts in the Boyle Circuit Court of the Commonwealth of Kentucky on July 6.

The first count of the indictment alleges that in May 2002 Robinson "offered and/or sold an unregistered security" to the Alum Springs First Church of God.

The second count says that as "a continuing course of conduct, Robinson committed the offense of fraudulent and other prohibited practices with securities."

The document also says Robinson "used a scheme . . . to defraud the church and or engaged in acts which operated as a fraud or deceit upon the church."

Prosecutor Richard Bottoms could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.

Suit: Residents harassed into Bible study

BY NATASHA KORECKI
Federal Courts Reporter for the Chicago Sun Times


Residents of a Westmont public housing complex for seniors said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that they were coerced and harassed by management into practicing Christianity and pressured to attend Bible study classes.

Five former and current residents of the complex, along with housing advocate Hope Fair Housing, are suing the complex and its property manager, saying they used "coercive, harassing and restrictive rules and regulations to impose their 'Christian' beliefs upon current residents."

Hope Fair Housing, based in Wheaton, also alleges the complex only invites low-income Chinese tenants and discriminates against any other potential residents.

The defendants in the case include the Illinois Chinese American Residence for the Elderly, 501 N. Cass Ave. in Westmont, Angela Yuan, president of the board of directors, and Providence Management and Development Company Inc.

Hid in bathrooms, residents say

Elderly non-Christian residents of the 60-unit complex said they live in a "religiously hostile and intimidating environment," where they are barred from using common rooms for anything non-Christian, including card playing, according to the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs Shen Tong Bea Tu, 87, and Yue Ru Lee, 86, who are non-Christian, say they hid in their apartment bathrooms with the lights off every Wednesday so they wouldn't be forced to attend Bible classes.

Other tenants claim in the lawsuit that Yuan visited them individually and demanded they kneel down with her and pray after she learned they had played Mah Jongg, a Chinese game similar to dominoes, in the building.

Yuan was not available for comment, but her husband, reached at home late Monday, said his wife volunteered her time at the complex for 20 years with the intention of helping the needy.

An attorney for the development company could not be reached for comment.

How to Get SLAVED!

by Brother Jeff

You need to be slaved, and I praze GAWD that the Spook of Kryasst who is also somehow magically Him has magically convinced you of that fact! Glory! Here's how to get slaved! Let's walk the Romans Road together, shall we? You'll notice that all of the following verses are from the glorious Book of Romans, which is why our journey is said to be on the metaphorical Romans Road!

The first verse on the Romans Road to slavation is Romans 3:23, "For all have done shit that pisses Jesus off, and come short of the glory of Gawd." We have all done shit that pisses Jesus off. We have all done things that are displeasing to the Holy Farter. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what the shit we do that pisses Him off looks like in our lives. The second Scripture on the Romans Road to slavation, Romans 6:23, teaches us about the consequences of doing shit that pisses Jesus off - "For the wages of doing shit that pisses Jesus off is death; but the magical gift of Gawd is a second magical eternal life after this one is over through Jesus Kryasst our Lord." The punishment that we have earned for doing shit that pisses the Magic Sky Man off is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death! Without Jesus, not only will your physical body die, but your inner spook (the real you) will die too!

The third verse on the Romans road to slavation picks up where Romans 6:23 left off, "but the magical gift of Gawd is a second magical eternal life after this one is over through Jesus Kryasst our Lord." Romans 5:8 declares, "But Gawd demonstrates how He made love to us from the Sky Kingdom, in that while we were still doing shit that pisses Him off, Kryasst sacrificed Himself to Himself for us." Jesus Kryasst died for us! Jesus' death paid the price to the Sky Him for doing shit that pisses Him off. Jesus' magical undeadening proves that Gawd the Holy Farter accepted Jesus' sacrifice to the Him up there in the Sky as the payment for doing shit that pisses Him off.

The fourth stop on the Romans road to slavation is Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that Gawd magically undeadened Him, you will be slaved." Because of Jesus' sacrifice to the Sky Him on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His sacrifice to the Sky Him as the payment for doing shit that pisses Him off - and we will be slaved! Romans 10:13 says it again, "for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be slaved." Jesus died to pay the penalty for our having done shit that pisses Him off and rescue us from Himself and the loving flaming torture chamber. Slavation, the forgiveness of having done shit that pissed Him off, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Kryasst as their Lord and Slaver.

The final aspect of the Romans road to slavation is the results of slavation. Romans 5:1 has this glorious message, "Therefore, since we have been justified through magical thinking, we have peace with Gawd through our Lord Jesus Kryasst." Through Jesus Kryasst we can have a magical relationship of peace with the Holy Sky Farter. Romans 8:1 teaches us, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who participate in the Sky Magic of Kryasst Jesus." Because of Jesus' sacrifice to the Sky Him on our behalf, we will never be condemned for doing shit that pisses Him off. Finally, we have this previous promise of Gawd from Romans 8:38-39, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither friendly spooks nor evil spooks, neither the present nor the future, nor any magical powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all the magical creation, will be able to separate us from the absurd love of Gawd that is in Kryasst Jesus our Lord."

Would you like to follow the Romans road to slavation? If so, here is a simple prayer you can say. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to Gawd that you are relying on Jesus Kryasst for your slavation. The words themselves will not slave you. Only magical thinking and blind faith in the glorious bullshit about Jesus Kryasst can provide slavation! Say this prayer right now. The Magic Sky Man will hear you and He will slave you and seal your slavation with the version of Himself known as the Holy Spook! Glory!

Click here to hear Brother Jeff preach and pray the glorious prayer below! (Warning: This file was recorded LOUD, so turn your speakers down initially so you can adjust the volume, or risk having Brother Jeff shred your speakers and blow your glorious ass all the way up to the Sky Kingdom at the same time! Glory!) :grin:

O Magic Sky Farter, I know that I have broken your laws and the shit I have done that pisses you off has separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from that shit and stop doing shit that pisses you off. Please forgive me, and help me avoid pissing you off again. I believe that your son who is also somehow magically you, Jesus Kryasst, died for the shit I did that pissed you off, was magically undeadened, is alive and living in the sky, and hears me talking to myself. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my farts from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spook to help me do shit that pleases You, and to do Your kind of shit for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I talk to myself, Amen. Glory!

Congratulations! You just got slaved! Now, don't let the Talking Snake take away your joy! He'll try to tell you that your slavation isn't real, that it's just an emotional thing or that the Gospel, the glorious bullshit about Kryasst, is actually bullshit, but don't believe him! You've put your trust in Kryasst! Rejoice at your victory over the Talking Snake! That talking animal no longer rules your life! Your new Lord is Kryasst, the Magic Sky Man! Glory to GAWD!!

It's important to share your newfound blind faith with someone right away so that Gawd knows you are serious about your decision to get slaved and start living not for yourself or for the Talking Snake, but for HIM, your new Invisible Friend up there in the Sky! Please email me, Brother Jeff, at (EMAIL: webmaster@religionisbullshit.org), about your glorious decision for Kryasst! I'll rejoice and glory with you in your slavation! I praze GAWD for magically leading you to this site and this very page you are reading so that you could hear the Gospel and get slaved! GLORY!!

8/11/2005                                                                                       View Comments

Religion takes a back seat in Western Europe

By Noelle Knox, USA TODAY

DUBLIN, Ireland — "I don't go to church, and I don't know one person who does," says Brian Kenny, 39, who is studying psychotherapy and counseling at Dublin Business School. "Fifteen years ago, I didn't know one person who didn't."

Church attendance in Ireland, though still among the highest in Western Europe, has fallen from about 85% to 60% from 1975 to 2004, according to the Dublin Archdiocese.

While it is still illegal for a woman to have an abortion in this mostly Roman Catholic country, Health Minister Mary Harney made front-page news in July when she said birth control pills should be available for girls as young as 11 in some circumstances. And for the first time, according to church records, not one priest will be ordained this year in Dublin.

Mary Haugh, who has gone to Mass here seven days a week for almost all of her 79 years, is saddened by these changes. "It's a Godless society," she says.

Ireland is not an exception. Every major religion except Islam is declining in Western Europe, according to the Center for the Study on Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. The drop is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance is less than 10% in some areas.

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the weakening of churches in Europe, Australia and the USA. "There's no longer evidence for a need of God, even less of Christ," he told Italian priests. "The so-called traditional churches look like they are dying."

The forces driving the decline include Europe's turbulent history, an increasing separation between the church and government — and perhaps ... most of all, the continent's unprecedented affluence.

"For most of history, people have been on the borderline of survival," says Ronald Inglehart, director of the World Values Survey, a Swedish-based group that tracks church attendance. "That's changed dramatically. Survival is certain for almost everyone (in the West). So one of the reasons people are drawn to religion has eroded."

Though many Europeans say they consider themselves Christians, far fewer actually attend services. One need only see the overwhelming number of gray-haired heads in church pews to know attendance will keep falling if something doesn't change dramatically.

Benedict, who visits Cologne, Germany, next week for World Youth Day, is expected to tell some 400,000 young people there that they are the future of the church. But the pope and other leaders of traditional churches admit that their struggle for souls in Western Europe is their greatest challenge.

One result: Fewer children

DECLINE BY COUNTRY
A 2000 study by the Swedish-based World Values Survey shows nearly half — or more — don't regularly attend church in several Western European countries. percentage of people who "never" or "practically never" attend church in 14 democracies:
Country 1981 2000
France 59% 60%
Britain 48% 55%
Netherlands 41% 48%
Belgium 35% 46%
Sweden 38% 46%
Denmark 45% 43%
Norway 38% 42%
Spain 26% 33%
West Germany 23% 30%
Finland 15% 28%
Canada 22% 26%
Italy 22% 17%
United States 18% 16%
Ireland 4% 8%
Mean 31% 36%
Source: World Values Survey






The need to revive the Roman Catholic Church in Europe was among the main reasons Benedict, a German cardinal, was chosen to succeed Pope John Paul II. "Nobody is better informed than Pope Benedict on the European scene and the secularism of Europe," British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor told the Associated Press shortly after Benedict was named pope. "I think all of us ... are concerned about this question."

One result: Fewer children

Among the most striking consequences of the decline of religion has been fewer children. The birth rate throughout much of Western Europe has fallen so drastically that the population in many countries is shrinking, indicating that women throughout Europe now routinely use artificial birth control, in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church's teachings.

"The biggest single consequence of the declining role of the church is the huge decline in fertility rates," Inglehart says. With fewer people entering the workforce, countries like Italy, Germany and France won't be able to maintain the generous welfare programs that have given most workers a lifetime of economic security.

The waning influence of religion also has brought a change in attitudes and laws on issues such as divorce, abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research.

In June, for example, Spain became the fourth country in the world to legalize gay marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada. The measure was supported by more than 60% of Spaniards, according to a poll in December by the Center for Sociological Investigation. In the USA, where religion and church attendance are comparatively stronger, 11 states voted last year to amend their constitutions to ban gay marriage.

Europeans debate whether these changes are positive or negative for society. But it is evident people feel freer to make decisions within their own moral framework.

"The declining (church) attendance is really dramatic, but what is even more important is that the churches are losing the ability to dictate to people how to live their lives," Inglehart says.

The Roman Catholic Church still wields some power. In May, the Vatican helped defeat a referendum in Italy that would have made fertility treatments more accessible. The Vatican urged people not to vote. Because turnout was less than 50%, the results were invalid.

Nevertheless, slightly more than a mile from the Vatican, at the Sant' Anastasia church, there were just 28 worshipers at a recent Sunday Mass. The mostly gray-haired women sat in pews built to hold up to 400. "Now, it's only a wedding or maybe the funeral of someone important that can fill the whole church," says Giovanna Lutti, 79.

In 1900, almost everyone in Europe was Christian. Now, three out of four people identify themselves as adherents to Christianity. At the same time, the percentage of Europeans who say they are non-religious has soared from less than 1% of the population to 15%. Another 3% say they don't believe in God at all, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.

In 12 major European countries, 38% of people say they never or practically never attend church, according to the World Values Survey in 2000. France's 60% non-attendance rate is the highest in that group. In the USA, only 16% say they rarely go to church.

When the trend began varies from country to country. Wars and revolutions have played a decisive role in shaping faith in Europe. The spread of religion and the conversion of the masses often were bloody affairs — from the Crusades and the papal wars to the Spanish Inquisition and the Protestant Reformation. Uprisings against ruling religious powers were equally brutal, as was the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland pitting Protestants against Catholics. That battle may only now be nearing an end with last month's promise by the separatist — and Catholic — Irish Republic Army to disarm.

When Gen. Francisco Franco seized control of Spain during the civil war in the 1930s, for instance, he worked with the clergy to spread a "National Catholicism" that enforced his social and political codes. Since Franco's death in 1975, Spain has become more secular. Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, elected in March 2004, has eliminated the one-year separation period before a divorce, authorized stem cell research and is working on a bill that would make religious education in public schools elective.

The government initiatives are a response to a changing society, says Luis López Guerra, the undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice in charge of religious and social affairs. "Spain's a Catholic country in the sense that virtually everyone born here is baptized a Catholic," he says. "But Spanish society has become much more open, more tolerant, more secular."

Not just the Catholic Church

Andrew Greeley, a priest, professor at the University of Chicago and prolific author on Christianity, argues that despite the drop in church attendance, Christianity is not on the wane everywhere in Europe. "Religion declined abruptly in England and the Netherlands. It is stagnant in West Germany, and it is flourishing in Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia," he says. "I get upset about the sweeping generalization about the decline in religion. Religion is always declining and always reviving."

It is not just the Catholic Church that has seen its numbers fall; some Protestant churches have been affected. Among the most striking examples is the Swedish Lutheran Church. For generations, "You didn't become a member when you were baptized. You became a member when you were born," says Carl Johan Lidén, a priest for the church in Stockholm.

In 2000, the church was separated from the state as part of the country's secular trend. People now can write to their local parish telling the vicar they no longer wish to be members and opt not to pay taxes to the church, which range from 2% to 3% of their income.

Although some 85% of Swedes are church members, only 11% of women and 7% of men go to church, the government says.

In Sweden, and throughout Scandinavia, the decline of the church also has been matched by a drop in the number of marriages. There is virtually no social stigma for unmarried parents. More than half of the children in Sweden and Norway are born to unmarried mothers, according to the European Union. In Denmark, it's 45%.

The separation between church and state in Europe is becoming standard. After vigorous debate, European leaders rejected any mention of the role of Christianity in a new constitution for the 25 European Union countries. Italy's nominee for justice minister of the EU, Rocco Buttiglione, was rejected because he was openly religious and condemned homosexuality.

Asked by USA TODAY about the consequences of the decline of religion, Buttiglione said, "If we ignore our pasts and try to create a Godless society where things like money or ambition or property are worshiped, then the society loses. ... It is a battle we are fighting at the current time."

The battle is more apparent in Western Europe, where a half-century of peace has meant economic and political stability. World Bank data show the per capita gross domestic product in Western Europe has tripled since 1980.

It's a different story in Eastern Europe, where the economies are weaker — and citizens less secure. That partly explains why religion remains strong in countries such as Russia, Poland and Ukraine. "For the masses, religion provides a sense of certainty in an uncertain world," he says. And since the collapse of communism and its anti-religious ideology, people in Eastern Europe are taking advantage of their new freedom to worship.

As Western Europeans have moved away from traditional worship, more people say they are "spiritual" rather than religious. Steve Hollinghurst, an Anglican priest, says, "It's very much what's appealing to people now — spirituality that works with my lifestyle. ... Faith and spirituality are now viewed as consumer products. And that's had an impact on the way people view institutional churches."

"Materialism has taken over. It has replaced God," says Haugh, the Dublin churchgoer.

But Kenny, the Dublin student, says he's merely typical of his generation. "I'm very spiritual," he says. "I speak to an energy force I call God, and I get answers," he says. "If you can get a spiritual connection without going to church, why go to church?"

Contributing: Geoff Pingree in Spain and Eric J. Lyman in Rome.

Affair charge rocks cleric

St. Pat's rector accused of trysts with secretary

BY BARBARA ROSS, ADAM LISBERG and CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Wednesday, August 10th, 2005

The Archdiocese of New York is looking into explosive allegations that a top priest who publicly railed against our "sex-saturated society" had a long-term affair with his married church secretary.

Msgr. Eugene Clark allegedly romanced 46-year-old Laura DeFilippo at his Hamptons home and a Long Island motel, according to police and court records.

Questioned yesterday by a Daily News reporter at a Montauk restaurant where Clark and DeFilippo have been seen noshing, the 79-year-old rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral denied he and DeFilippo were lovers.

"Not true," Clark said outside the Surfside Inn.

The accusations against Clark were brought by DeFilippo's husband, Philip, who had an investigator tail the duo to a Hamptons motel - videotaping them last month arriving together and then checking out several hours later.

And in signed statements to Eastchester Police in Westchester County, Philip DeFilippo, his 14-year-old daughter and his wife's sister all describe how the teen allegedly found her mother "sitting on [Clark's] lap wearing a satin teddy."

The girl told police she ran to her room where her mother "yelled at me, convincing me that I didn't see what I saw, and it wasn't what I thought. She told me that he had prostate cancer, and I couldn't tell anyone what I saw or I would be in trouble."

Clark has retained high-powered defense attorney Laura Brevetti, who called the allegations "contrived" and added, "there is nothing to them."

"Msgr. Clark is deeply upset and saddened that innocent events have been distorted and sensationalized causing harm and public embarrassment to Mrs. DeFilippo and her children," she said in a statement.

The archdiocese was unaware of the allegations until The News called Monday seeking comment.

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said "we only learned about this last night [Monday], and we have been speaking to Msgr. Clark today to get to the bottom of this," he said.

Laura DeFilippo's lawyer, Michael Berger, called the allegations "baseless" and said her husband was making a "desperate attempt to coerce her to accept her husband's outrageous demands in their matrimonial action."

The developments came as Westchester County Family Court Judge Kathie Davidson granted Philip DeFilippo's request for an order of protection against his wife.

In a statement to police, Philip DeFilippo said that when he told his wife that he had a videotape of her at a motel with Clark, she threatened to "stab me with a scissor or a knife."

Davidson said DeFilippo will be barred from her Eastchester home until Aug. 22, by which time a guardian will have had a chance to question the couple's two children.

She did not speak at the hearing.

Clark hired DeFilippo straight out of high school and presided over her marriage to Philip in Yonkers 20 years ago. She now earns between $70,000 and $100,000 from the archdiocese, her husband said.

"It's the perfect cover," DeFilippo's husband told The News.

Philip DeFilippo, who filed for divorce last week citing adultery as one of the grounds for his action, said Clark was a close family friend and frequently invited them to spend summer weekends at his Amagansett, L.I., home.

"He's a charming, dapper, blue-eyed, suave, quick-witted, fast-talking charmer," he said.

Philip DeFilippo became suspicious when his wife began working late into the night at the Madison Ave. rectory and balked at joining a family vacation at Disney World.

He said Clark took her to Lisbon and to the exclusive Caribbean island of St. Bart's.

When he eventually confronted his wife, she replied: "What are you worried about? He's a priest ... an elderly priest!"

Last month, Philip DeFilippo said he had a private eye tail Clark and his wife to the White Sands Motel in Amagansett. The investigator videotaped the monsignor going into the office.

The Daily News viewed the videotape. After a two-hour brunch on the porch of the nearby Surfside Inn, Clark, dressed in a white polo shirt, was seen wheeling a small black suitcase into the White Sands Motel. His secretary, dressed in short white shorts and a matching top with spaghetti straps, followed him inside with an orange tote bag over her shoulder.

When they emerged about five hours later, the video showed Clark and DeFilippo wearing different outfits.

8/07/2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor faces sex charges


A 58-year-old local pastor is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a 5-year-old girl, deputies of the Logan County Sheriff's Office reported this morning.

The Rev. James Alan Hazlett, 206 N. Taylor St., West Liberty, was charged Wednesday afternoon with one count of gross sexual imposition, stemming from an incident July 9, while he served as pastor of the West Liberty United Methodist Church, 202 W. Newell St.

Detectives said the case was forwarded to them from Delaware County Children Services on Tuesday and the pastor was arrested at about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the sheriff's office.

Sgt. Jeff Cooper, lead detective at the sheriff's office, said Mr. Hazlett has cooperated during their investigation. The detective declined to comment on where the victim resides.

"Pastors are in a position of trust; they're someone everybody looks up to and goes to with their problems," he said. "I would say he violated that position of trust."

The Rev. Randy Stearns, superintendent of the United Methodist District Office in Springfield, said Mr. Hazlett has been removed from his duties at the church until further notice.

"Obviously we're concerned for him and his family," he said. "At this point, we're not jumping to any conclusions. These are serious charges. We've removed Jim from his duties at the West Liberty United Methodist Church until further notice, pending an investigation, and we're asking for prayers for the family, the congregation and all those involved."

Mr. Hazlett has been pastor in West Liberty since July 2004, coming from Oak Harbor United Methodist Church near Toledo, where he had served since 2002, a secretary at the United Methodist Conference Center in Worthington said this morning.

The Rev. Stearns did not know exactly how long Mr. Hazlett has been an ordained minister, but he has been in the ministry more than 30 years, the superintendent said.

Calls to the United Methodist Conference Center in Worthington were not returned this morning.

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The journey to heal


Ex-cult members say it's time to set the record straight

The All Saved Freak Band started in 1968 with (from back left) co-founder Joe Markko on guitar, co-founder Larry Hill, piano; Mike (last name unknown), drums, and Randy Markko on bass.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a three-part series resulting from former members of an Ashtabula County church coming forward to tell their stories after reading about the reported cult-like activities at the Apostolic Faith Church in Jefferson Township.

In 1963, Larry Hill was a street evangelist working in Chicago, when he invited 15-year-old Joe Markko to say "the sinner’s prayer." Five years later, the twosome would start one of the first Christian rock bands in America. In 1971, Hill convinced Ron Taggart to move to his farm/church in Windsor Township. After leaving the church, Taggart began a movement to educate the public about cults.

By SHELLEY TERRY
starbeacon.com


When Joe Markko walked away from the Church of the Risen Christ in 1979, he was an elder in the church, a licensed minister and the Rev. Larry Hill’s "spiritual son."

Now 57, Markko searches for healing - not from the emotional scars of a dysfunctional childhood and living on the streets of Chicago, or from the loss of his hands after being electrocuted with 27,000 volts of electricity; but rather, from the horrific memories of the 11 years he spent at Hill’s farm/church in Windsor Township.

The recent news reports about cult-like activities at the Apostolic Faith Church in Jefferson Township brought back nightmares of abuse for Markko: "Adults were beaten, I was beaten, but beating children until they quit crying."

Markko never finished the sentence.

He said until he read the May 12 Star Beacon article and an article in the December 2004 edition of Cleveland Scene magazine, where Hill blamed his former members for his demise, he and (former member) Ron Taggart had not plan to step forward.

"We decided it’s time to speak up," Markko said. "He’s lying and we’re not going to take it any more."

Markko’s story really begins at birth when his 15-year-old mother abandoned him, leaving Markko to grow up in foster homes. By the time he was 15, Markko had discovered alcohol and drugs as a way to escape. He met Hill on a street corner on Chicago’s north side. Hill introduced him to Christianity, but the preacher moved back to Ohio shortly thereafter.

Markko’s parole officer later sent him to live with Hill and family at their home in Jefferson. Markko returned to Chicago, but Hill continued to visit him, looking after him as a father would a son.

In August 1968, Hill made one of his trips to Chicago. Markko blames a combination of drugs and a family member’s eerie premonition of death for his wife’s subsequent panic attack and decision to follow Hill back to Ohio.

Afterwards, life became work and church. The group bought a farmhouse in Windsor Township and, although some left the flock because they didn’t like the idea of a commune, about 45 people, moved to the farm, Markko said.

All week they worked on the farm and every weekend, they witnessed and distributed a homemade newspaper, "Freedom Bell" on the streets of Cleveland, talking to prostitutes and addicts, musicians and bartenders, even to Hells Angels. They also took on Ashtabula County, going door-to-door and leasing a tent at the fair. After the Kent State University riots in May 1970, Hill moved his mission work there.

Hill and Markko had started a band, forming what would later be called the All Saved Freak Band. Hill played the piano; Markko, guitar; Hill’s oldest son, Brett, percussion, and Markko’s brother, Randy, bass. Their first song, "There is still hope in Jesus," became the closing song for a local Saturday night radio broadcast: "Time for the Risen Christ."

In the midst of all this, 21-year-old Markko was trying to be a good parent to three young children. He turned to Hill for guidance.

Markko preferred not to talk about what followed, other than to show an old, yellowed copy of "Freedom Bell," where Hill wrote, "The scripture teaches, ’Beat thy son with a rod, and let not your soul spare his tears.’ We’re so squeamish about bruises on our children’s legs, but we can stand and watch their souls and emotions be mutilated."

Today, Markko’s children will have nothing to do with church.

"I did what I did because I believed I was doing it for God," he said. "Intentions were pure, but misguided."

Taggart said he was beaten 13 times with a bullwhip, up to 40 lashes at a time.

Hill, now 70, denied charges of any abuse.

Throughout 1971, the group shuttled back and forth to Kent and the farm, working day and night. Some men kept watch of the farm at night, others dug a tunnel after Hill prophesied China would invade America, and God would only save his prophet, Hill, and his followers, Markko said.

"We were sleep deprived over a long period of time and then sent out on a cross-country drives in the middle of the night," Markko said.

Brett Hill was killed on the way home from a New Year’s Eve concert in Kent. The driver, Tom Miller, fell asleep at the wheel of Taggart’s truck. The vehicle jumped a ditch, crossed a cornfield, the passenger door opened and Brett fell out, rolling under the wheels.

Taggart said when Brett died, he thought Hill would realize the price of sleep deprivation. But that wouldn’t be the case.

More would die, Joe Markko would be maimed, child abuse charges would emerge and Hill would forever blame Taggart for his son’s death.

"He poked me in the chest and said, ’You owe me for the rest of your life. If you had fixed the door of the truck like I told you, my son would still be alive,’" Taggart said, noting there was no time to fix the truck. "Besides, when you joined the church, your possessions were no longer yours."

During a phone interview Thursday, Hill said Taggart told him before the concert that he had fixed the truck.

"He lied to me ... I sold the truck immediately," Hill said.

Today, Taggart, 53 lives in Akron and volunteers for Cult Information Services of Northeast Ohio. For more information, call (330) 929-9734.

Former Church Youth Director Held in Sex Case

A man who was arrested last weekend on sex charges involving two girls was a youth director at a Kernersville church.

Timothy Paul Rowell was charged with a sexual offense in which the defendant is six or more years older than the victim, and with indecent liberties with a child.

Main Street Baptist Church pastor Michael Willard said Rowell worked as his church's youth director for a year and a half. He told WXII 12's Damany Lewis that he performed background checks on Rowell and that they came back OK.

Willard said he fired Rowell and began counseling him after learning of the allegations.

Rowell was placed under a $125,000 bond at the Forsyth County Jail.

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Ministry Slammed for Stem Cell Comments

DENVER (AP) -- Critics demanded an apology Thursday from the founder of the Christian ministry Focus on the Family after he compared the ethics of embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experiments on Holocaust victims.

James Dobson made the comments Wednesday during his radio show, which reaches an estimated 220 million people worldwide.

Dobson was criticizing Sen. Bill Frist and others who support expanded stem cell research in hopes that stem cells one day could be used to replace cells damaged from such conditions as diabetes, spinal cord injury or Parkinson's disease.

Dobson and other opponents object to the research because embryos are destroyed to harvest the cells.

"We condemn what the Nazis did because there are some things that we always could do but we haven't done, because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality," Dobson said. "And you remove ethics and morality, and you get what happened in Nazi Germany."

Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Dobson should apologize.

"There is no legitimate comparison between stem-cell research, which seeks to find a cure for disease and to counter human suffering, and the perversion of science and morality represented by the actions of Nazi doctors who deliberately tortured their victims in medical 'experiments,'" Foxman said.

Dobson was not available for comment Thursday. Carrie Gordon Earll, senior analyst for bioethics for Focus on the Family, said Dobson would not apologize.

"The Nazi experiment analogy is accurate and appropriate," she said. "If any apologies are due, it is advocates of destroying embryonic humans who should be apologizing."

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., called Dobson's remarks "extremely ignorant and insulting," saying they "diminish the enormity of the Nazis' atrocities and are an appalling distortion of the debate." link

8/04/2005                                                                                       View Comments

A View to a Kill

Several years ago I was still deeply entrenched in Christianity when a tragedy struck one of the Christian families in town. I knew this family, or more accurately I knew the patriarch of the family whom I’ll call T.H. He was involved in a variety of ministerial pursuits, which to the best of my knowledge was the way he earned his daily bread. A lawyer by education, he held a loose partnership with other Christian lawyers that devoted time and talents to assisting churches and ministries with legal problems. I don't know how the group was actually remunerated for their services, but since the group was always promoting their agency as a ministry, I had the understanding that “love offerings” kept the organization afloat.

Beyond the legal-beagling, T.H. had big plans for doing something important for his God. He'd been writing hymns and church music, self-publishing children’s' stories, producing Evangelical tapes aimed at kids, and I don't know what else. His "god-given" talent for any of these endeavors was very limited – or rather, non-existent - and the quality of the products was low, but he was completely convinced his God had called him to do these things, and today he is still pumping the stuff out. He's written several hundred songs so far, none of which is likely to have been heard outside one small Independent Baptist Church building here in town. He markets his books and tapes on a homemade website which claims to have distributed the items to 25 countries. Exchange the word “distributed” with the word “donated” and the picture of what is really going on is made a bit clearer.

Regardless of his lack of material success, he believed then and still believes he is serving his God. He has a profound sense of significance, and seems to be relatively happy - at least that’s what he wants people to believe.

In 1995, although my theological understanding had taken some considerable turns in the years and months prior, I was still every bit the born-again, bought-and-sold Evangelical, fundamental, Bible-toting, verse-quoting, WWJD trinket wearing Christian.

Then the phone call: "Did you hear?" the caller asked. "So-and-so's daughter was killed in a car accident! The viewing is..."

T.H.'s daughter was 13 when she died. Her 17-year-old brother was driving a van when he broadsided an 18-wheel tractor-trailer at an intersection. The van was sent careening out of control and wrecked. The 13-year old was killed instantly while her brother and two passengers escaped without serious injury.

A terrible human tragedy, but that's not the point of this story.

I showed up at the funeral home and settled in for a long evening. The line was monstrous. Since T.H.'s various ministerial ambitions and projects had made him well known in local Christian politics, visitors crowded the funeral home.

Now, what would a person expect to see and hear at a viewing for a family that had suddenly lost a 13-year old daughter? I don't suppose there is a right thing or a wrong thing to see or hear, but what would one expect? Laughing? Crying? Weeping? Jokes? Quiet? Loud talking? Praise the Lords? What?

I've been to a few dozen viewings and generally what I've come to expect is sadness in eyes and faces of the bereaved, quiet crying from some of the attendees, soft music in the background, hugs, tears, empathetic comments, and pleasant stories and remembrances of the deceased. At least that’s what my experience has taught me to expect. The religion or lack of religion of the deceased never seemed to make any difference in the general atmosphere of those viewings; all of them have been pretty much the same.

This viewing for this 13-year old was different from any I'd attended up to that point and remains unique in my memory.

Far from being somber, sad, or sensitive, pastors and preachers were finding the occasion a perfect opportunity for what looked to me like politicking. They gave every appearance of finding the evening absolutely festive - loud talking, jokes, handshakes, introductions, and bold platitudes. It was more like a celebratory open house than anything I recognized as resembling mourning. T.H.'s pastor was there literally shouting welcoming greetings to those across the room, introducing himself to clergy he didn't know, and exchanging boisterous pleasantries with those he'd met before. I was amazed.

Remember, I was still a believer at this point - but I was still appalled. I decided to reserve final judgment until it was my turn to offer my own condolences to T.H. and his family.

"She's in a better place - God had another plan for her," T.H.'s wife said. Her eyes were bloodshot from crying, her makeup ruined by tears, her eyes vacant and lifeless. Her words were brave, but her slumping shoulders told another story.

T.H. grabbed my hand and shook it excitedly. "Jesus had another plan for my girl!" he was nearly shouting. He didn't look me in the eye. In fact, he didn't look like he was focusing on anything or anyone. Both parents looked like they were emotional wrecks. They looked like they were in shock.

Meanwhile the raucous party continued without skipping a beat. I got out of there as quick as I could. I didn't attend the funeral.

For the next two years T.H.'s wife struggled with a debilitating clinical depression. Though I've lost touch with the family since becoming an apostate, rumor has it that she's doing better now, though how much better is in doubt. T.H. created a simple website and a sad gospel tract to preserve his daughter's memory.

As I stated earlier on, I don’t think there is any "right" way to mourn, but there are some things I'd expect if my 13-year old daughter were lying still and lifeless in a casket. I'd expect empathy, sympathy, sensitivity, gentleness, not a party.

Could it be that because these "men of God" were so filled with the Holy Spirit and the confidence of a world beyond this one, that they could see nothing but a glorious celebration as the appropriate response to their friend’s daughter being snuffed out? That might be the reason - maybe. And I suppose that if a member of my immediate family dies I do have the right to make it into a party. That's an option I might choose. In T.H.'s case, however, it was fairly apparent that no one in his immediate family "felt" like celebrating. Most of the "Christians" in attendance didn’t seem to notice, or care.

For me, the final curtain on the entire affair is the belief T.H. has repeated uncountable times since, namely, that “God had another plan for my daughter.”

What was that plan? Was the plan to kill her before she reached her next birthday? T.H. has posted a detailed description on his website itemizing the tiniest minutia of the accident, concluding that there is no way anyone would have survived without God having miraculously intervened. In T.H.'s mind the accident has become a miracle of God.

I really don’t know what lesson I learned from all this. I do know the sad episode sickened me then, and it still sickens me now. Rather than being allowed to be openly sad, these parents were forced to hide their natural emotional devastation behind pious masks. I seriously doubt that is a mentally healthy approach to dealing with the loss of a child.

What do you think?

P.S.: I won't be posting a link to T.H.'s website because I'm not interested in having anyone contact him and bring any additional sadness into his family's life.