Later On

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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

And an example of sex-negative parenting

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Here’s how that works out in practice.

Compare and contrast with this report.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2014 at 2:06 pm

Absolutely and totally fascinating: SoulPulse

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And just in time, I’d say. As the US becomes increasingly inequitable and increasingly polarized culturally, having some overall measures that can show trends—that might well be useful. Casey Cep writes in the New Yorker:

On April 10, 1901, Duncan Macdougall, a physician in Haverhill, Massachusetts, completed an experiment designed to measure the human soul, the first of six he would complete in his lifetime. Using an industrial scale designed for weighing silk, accurate to one-fifth of an ounce, Macdougall weighed a male tuberculosis patient before and immediately after he died. It took three hours and forty minutes for the man to expire, and at the moment of his death he lost three-fourths of an ounce. This, by Macdougall’s calculations, was the weight of the human soul.

According to Mary Roach’s book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Macdougall didn’t publish his findings until 1907, when his research appeared in both the Journal of the American Society for Physical Research and American Medicine. In March of that year, the Times ran a story called “Soul Has Weight, Physician Thinks.” Perhaps because he wasn’t able to find additional human subjects, Macdougall performed the rest of his research on dogs, which he determined had no souls because their weights did not change after death.

Last January, John Ortberg, a senior pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and Bradley Wright, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, released a simpler way of measuring a soul: SoulPulse, a technology project that captures real-time data on the spirituality of Americans. SoulPulse attempts to quantify the soul, an unbodied version of what FitBit, the exercise-tracking device, has done for the body. After filling in a brief intake survey on your age, race, ethnicity, education, income, and religious affiliation, SoulPulse contacts you twice a day with questions about your physical health, spiritual disciplines, and religious experiences. Each of the surveys takes less than five minutes to complete.

Baptized in the Lutheran Church, and a believer, I enrolled in SoulPulse for two weeks. I told it how I’d slept and what I’d been doing, whether I’d had anything to drink or taken any drugs, who I was with, if I’d been praying or worshiping, how close I felt to God. There were drop-down menus, slider buttons, and actual buttons to click, but no narrative answers were accepted. Day to day, I felt like I was adding up my spiritual position. Just how joyful was I? How peaceful? How grateful? Was I more aware of God when I was commuting or when I was using a computer? I had participated in a few research studies before, but I had never felt the observer effect—in which a subject changes her behavior as a result of feeling watched—so strongly. I didn’t doubt the experiment’s guarantee of anonymity, but being asked about my spiritual disciplines made me more eager to practice them.

One busy afternoon, I wondered how long it had been since I’d prayed, and realized that it had not been since that morning. Being asked so often to look for God’s presence made me want to be more aware of it, an experience not unlike gathering for worship on a Sunday morning, when the liturgy of the church makes me aware of things seen and unseen, attentive to the known and unknown. I asked Ortberg and Wright about the observer effect, and about a deeper skepticism I have about quantifying spirituality. I am a strong believer, but I chafe at any kind of program or book series that promises rewards or guarantees sacred fruits. Spirituality, it seems to me, is a thing that can not be counted.

Ortberg, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, listened to my concerns, and said, “On the one hand, not everything can be put in a test tube or seen with a microscope. The most important dimensions of life have to do with the spirit, and those aren’t always quantifiable. But using the best tools and methods available seems like a worthwhile thing.” He also stressed that, while SoulPulse is using new tools, it is answering old questions. Describing Brother Lawrence’s “The Practice of the Presence of God,” a seventeenth-century text that linked God’s presence to daily tasks like doing the dishes and cooking meals, Ortberg said that believers across the centuries have tried to cultivate a mindfulness of the holy. He also pointed to Frank Laubach’s “The Game With Minutes,” a book from 1953 that taught practitioners to turn their minds toward God as often as possible, at least one second of every minute of every day.

“This is trying to use technology to gauge and enhance a tremendously old practice, to be aware of, to look for the divine in everyday experience,” Ortberg said. SoulPulse is simply a technological attempt at creating something like . . .

Continue reading.

List how many ways the sample is biased. Not sure how generalizable it will be, but it will be interesting to see the trends.

But these guys are going about it all wrong. They should do a free app that fires off questions at random times during the day, and user can set number of times a day s/he will tolerate. The various answers update an ever-growing database that is summarized in real time (accessible chart via smartphone) in charts of the overall SoulPlus readings. Real-time viewing of an aspect of the public mind. Intriguing—and fantastic marketing info.

In fact, now that I think about it, isn’t that somewhat like the sort of thing Facebook would do?

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2014 at 11:55 am

Interesting story on the very start of the Catholic church’s pedophile scandal

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From the first chapter of a four-chapter series published by Minnesota Public Radio and written by Madeleine Baran:

Lafayette, La. — The Diocese of Lafayette stretches from the city south to Vermilion Bay, whose waters lead to the Gulf of Mexico. Down among the bayous and sugar cane fields of southern Louisiana, Catholicism runs deep.

Many of the 300,000 Catholics who live here trace their history back to the late 1700s, when their French ancestors fled Canada to escape British rule. In this humid, undeveloped land, they discovered waters filled with shrimp, oysters and crawfish, and they built churches on patches of dry ground.

For generations, they believed the priest served as the living face of Jesus Christ. He forgave their sins, baptized the young and anointed the sick. In his purity, he gave the faithful a glimpse of what heaven would be like.

No one had ever heard of a priest raping a child.

So when the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe arrived in the 1970s and showed an interest in young boys, no one paid much attention.

The priest took boys on camping trips and invited them for sleepovers in the rectory. He claimed to hold practices for altar boys every day at 6 a.m. and encouraged parents to let their boys spend the night.

His sexual appetite was uncontrollable. He put bars on the windows of a rectory. He kept a gun by the side of his bed, and when children refused to submit he threatened to use it. At night, he raped the boys, forced them to perform sex acts on each other, and took photographs on his Polaroid camera.

It went on this way for more than a decade. Gauthe remained in ministry even when his bishop learned that he had abused one boy and licked the faces of two others. After the second complaint, the bishop transferred Gauthe to a small church in the isolated town of Henry, La. On Sundays, the priest stood at the altar and surveyed his victims.

Finally, in 1983, a boy told his father, Wayne Sagrera, and Sagrera reported it to the diocese. The bishop sent Gauthe away for psychological treatment and offered nine families confidential settlements of more than $4 million.

One family refused to settle and went public, and the community awoke to the horror of what the priest had been doing to its children.

The Gastal family sued the diocese for failing to protect their 10-year-old son, Scott, who had been abused by Gauthe for more than a year. When Scott was hospitalized for rectal bleeding caused by the abuse, Gauthe stopped by to give him a toy car. The boy later worried that Gauthe would break into his parents’ home and attack him. He would stay up all night checking the locks.

The boy testified graphically in court in 1986, struggling at times to find the words to describe what had happened. He said Gauthe had put his “pee-pee” inside him. The jury awarded $1 million.

The case made headlines around the country, especially after freelance reporter Jason Berry dug into the details and found a cover-up. As months passed, it became clear that Gauthe had been abusing children for decades. He later told a psychologist that he had abused more than 300 children. The scandal grew even after Gauthe pleaded guilty to 34 criminal counts and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

More parents threatened to come forward. Other priests were accused. Reporters began to wonder whether this was truly an isolated incident or an example of something that ran deeper and farther than a single diocese.

Their suspicions would prove correct. And the events unfolding in Louisiana would prove key to understanding a story that would play out decades later in Minnesota.

Vatican ‘feared a domino effect’

The news from Louisiana soon reached the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., where the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a young canon lawyer and fast-rising star in the church hierarchy, became alarmed. He wondered: How many other priests had abused children? And how many bishops had covered it up?

Doyle quickly concluded that the scandal of priests sexually abusing children – and the failure of the church hierarchy to stop it – could destroy the Catholic Church in the United States. The Vatican “feared a domino effect,” he recalled in a recent interview. “The risk was the loss of prestige, the loss of power, the loss of respect,” and the loss of money.

There was also the spiritual risk of scandal, a word that has a different meaning in the Catholic Church. Scandal threatens to separate believers from God. It could send people to hell. [OTOH, Jesus reportedly praised knowing the truth because the truth would set one free. But the Catholic church is much more wary of the truth than was Jesus. - LG]

As the crisis unfolded in 1985, Doyle teamed up with Ray Mouton, Gauthe’s criminal defense attorney, and the Rev. Michael Peterson, who ran a treatment center in Maryland for priests with sexual disorders. They wrote a confidential report called “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy.” It warned that hundreds of priests might be abusing children and that lawsuits and settlements could cost the U.S. Catholic Church $1 billion in 10 years.

No one listened.

“They literally laughed that off,” Doyle said. “You know, they were the Catholic Church, much too big and powerful to ever fall prey to these lawyers and these people.”

He watched as Lafayette Bishop Gerard Frey, then 71, failed to repair the scandal. “There was no playbook at that time. Nobody knew how to do it,” Doyle said.

Frey had offered prayers, policies and promises, but he couldn’t undo his failure years earlier to act on the complaints about Gauthe. A local newspaper called for his resignation. In an interview, Frey said Gauthe had tricked him into thinking he was cured.

Frey wouldn’t directly admit that he had been wrong to keep Gauthe in ministry. “Unfortunately, circumstances have proven that my subjective evaluation was in error,” he said.

Doyle read the news reports with dismay. He suggested that the pope send a new bishop to Lafayette to serve alongside Frey for the next three years and then replace him when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

He recommended a parish priest named Harry Flynn. . .

Continue reading. It’s an amazing story, and full of “the ends justify any means” thinking by the Catholic church. And apparently it occurred to no one that the Church should obey the law, rendering unto Caesar, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2014 at 11:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Church Lawyer Details Cover-up Claims on Sex Abuse

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How the Catholic church betrayed its parishioners by helping pedophiles, explained by a church lawyer in an ABC  News article:

A canon lawyer alleging a widespread cover-up of clergy sex misconduct in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made her most detailed claims yet, accusing archbishops and their top staff of lying to the public and of ignoring the U.S. bishops’ pledge to have no tolerance of priests who abuse.

Jennifer Haselberger, who spent five years as Archbishop John Nienstedt’s archivist and top adviser on Roman Catholic church law, also charged that the church used a chaotic system of record-keeping that helped conceal the backgrounds of guilty priests who remained on assignment.

Haselberger said that when she started examining records in 2008 of clergy under restrictions over sex misconduct with adults and children she found “nearly 20″ of the 48 men still in ministry. She said she repeatedly warned Nienstedt and his aides about the risk of these placements, but they took action only in one case. As a result of raising alarms, she said she was eventually shut out of meetings about priest misconduct. She resigned last year.

“Had there been any serious desire to implement change, it could have been done quickly and easily with the stroke of a single pen,” Haselberger wrote in the affidavit, released Tuesday in a civil lawsuit brought by attorney Jeff Anderson. “The archbishop’s administrative authority in his diocese is basically unlimited.”

The archdiocese has for years pledged it was following the national bishops’ policy, known as the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which lays out a series of requirements — from conducting background checks to alerting parishioners about offender priests and barring guilty clergy from parish assignments. Archbishop Harry Flynn, who led the Minneapolis archdiocese until retiring in 2008, was an architect of the 12-year-old plan.

But Haselberger said she discovered in 2008 that the archdiocese hadn’t conducted background checks on most priests since the early 1990s. When she drew attention to the lapse, she said she was told to eliminate references to the date of background checks in a form pledging a priest is suitable for ministry. . .

Continue reading.

I do not think Catholic officials in the US are excused from obeying the law, but many seem to act as though that were true. If you read the complete article you will see that Catholic officials quite deliberately broke the law because they thought it was “better for the Church” to keep pedophile priests (some of whom were paid extra) in the Church.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2014 at 9:46 am

Posted in Law, Religion

Ever Wondered Why the World is a Mess? Here’s why.

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Roberto Savio explains at the Inter Press Service News Agency:

Addressing this column to the younger generations, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, offers ten explanations of how the current mess in which the world finds itself came about.

ROME, Jul 11 2014 (IPS) – While the Third World War has not been formally declared, conflicts throughout the world are reaching levels unseen since 1944.

Of course, for the large majority of people throughout the world, news about these conflicts is just part of our daily news, but another share of our daily news is about the mess in our countries.

This is so complex and confusing that many people have given up the effort to attempt any form of deep understanding, so I thought it would be useful to offer ten explanations of how we succeeded in creating this mess.

1) The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities. This was especially true of Africa and the Arab world, where the concept of state was imposed on systems of tribes and clans.

Just to give a few examples, none of the present-day Arab countries existed prior to colonialism. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf Countries (including Saudi Arabia) were all parts of the Ottoman Empire. When this disappeared with the First World War (like the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires), the winners – Britain and France – sat down at a table and drafted the boundaries of countries to be run by them, as they had done before with Africa. So, never look at those countries as equivalent to countries with a history of national identity.

2) After the end of the colonial era, it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions. The Arab Spring did indeed get rid of dictators and autocrats, just to replace them with chaos and warring factions (as in Libya) or with a new autocrat, as in Egypt.

The case of Yugoslavia is instructive. After the Second World War, Marshal Tito dismantled the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and created the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But we all know that Yugoslavia did not survive the death of its strongman.

The lesson is that without creating a really participatory and unifying process of citizens, with a strong civil society, local identities will always play the most decisive role. So it will take some before many of the new countries will be considered real countries devoid of internal conflicts.

3) Since the Second World War, the meddling of the colonial and super powers in the process of consolidation of new countries has been a very good example of man-made disaster.

Take the case of Iraq. When the United States took over administration of the country in 2003 after its invasion, General Jay Garner was appointed and lasted just a month, because he was considered too open to local views.

Garner was replaced by a diplomat, Jan Bremmer, who took up his post after a two-hour briefing by the then Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice. Bremmer immediately proceeded to dissolve the army (creating 250,000 unemployed) and firing anyone in the administration who was a member of the Ba’ath party, the party of Saddam Hussein. This destabilised the country, and today’s mess is a direct result of this decision.

The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whom Washington is trying to remove as the cause of polarisation between Shiites and Sunnis, was the preferred American candidate. So was the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who is now virulently anti-American. This is a tradition that goes back to the first U.S. intervention in Vietnam, where Washington put in place Ngo Dihn Dien, who turned against its views, until he was assassinated.

There is no space here to give example of similar mistakes (albeit less important) by other Western powers. The point is that all leaders installed from outside do not last long and bring instability.

4) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 2:21 pm

The Pope and the Pederasts

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Garry Wills is always worth reading, and he has an excellent article in the NY Review of Books:

Pope Francis has acted fast on his preferred issues—poverty and economic justice. Nothing in that to criticize. He has been slower—too slow, say some—to deal with the long-festering problem of sex abuse by priests. He has at last taken some of the steps people were calling for—see victims and apologize to them, authorize a panel to study the problem, promise reforms that will prevent a recurrence of these crimes. OK so far—but Pope Benedict had begun all that before him.

Why did Francis hesitate to continue what was already being done? Is it because all these things are beside the point? Very likely, they are. Without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far. There are four such interlocking problems:

1. Celibacy. Yes, celibacy does not directly and of itself lead to sexual predation. There are many unmarried men and women who are not predators. But Catholic celibacy is not simply an unmarried state. It is a mandatory and exclusive requirement for holding all significant offices in the Church. This sets up a sexual caste system that limits vision, empathy, and honesty. It enables church rulers to be blithely at odds with the vast majority of their own people. According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of American Catholic women of child-bearing age have had sex—and, of that 98 percent, 99 percent have used or will use some form of contraception. Yet celibate priests tell us they know what sex is really about (by their expertise in “natural law”), and in their view it absolutely precludes birth control. There is an induced infantilism in such cloistered minds, an ignorance that poses as innocence. This prevents honesty at so many levels that any trust on sexual matters begins in a crippled state, handicapping all treatment of sexual predation in the Church.

2. Homophobia. Pope Francis is often hailed for asking, “Who am I to judge” gay men. The New Yorker headlined its comment on this question (by the estimable Alexander Stille), “Francis Redefines the Papacy.” Hardly. He was speaking within a specific context, after being asked about gay priests in the Vatican (the so-called “gay lobby”). He said, “We must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” But accepting the Lord in the modern priesthood means following the rule of recent popes that homosexuality is morally “disordered” and may not be acted on. He was saying that gay priests who do not have gay sex should not be judged.

This is no great advance on the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” line that homophobes regularly use. There are many gay priests, some who remain celibate, some who don’t. The fact that they have to hide their “disorder” does not mean they are not being judged. If they felt they were not being judged, they would not be hiding. Now, when Catholics are agreeing with their fellow Americans that being gay is not a disgrace, and marrying is a gay right, the Vatican cannot even get into the conversation, much less lead it in a useful way.

3. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 11:50 am

Posted in Religion

Good summary of Hobby Lobby implications

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Alan Park has a good post at Mother Jones on the problems implicit in the Hobby Lobby decision. Basically, one the corporate veil is ripped open, then things flow in both directions: if the owners can have the corporation reflect their religious beliefs, they are well on their way to having to pay (personally) for the corporation’s debt. Park’s post begins:

Here’s one more reason to worry about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed the arts and crafts chain to block insurance coverage of contraception for female employees because of the owners’ religious objections: It could screw up corporate law.

This gets complicated, but bear with us. Basically, what you need to know is that if you and some friends start a company that makes a lot of money, you’ll be rich, but if it incurs a lot of debt and fails, you won’t be left to pay its bills. The Supreme Court affirmed this arrangement in a 2001 case, Cedric Kushner Promotions vs. Don King:

linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different “persons,” even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.

That separation is what legal and business scholars call the “corporate veil,” and it’s fundamental to the entire operation. Now, thanks to the Hobby Lobby case, it’s in question. By letting Hobby Lobby’s owners assert their personal religious rights over an entire corporation, the Supreme Court has poked a major hole in the veil. In other words, if a company is not truly separate from its owners, the owners could be made responsible for its debts and other burdens.

“If religious shareholders can do it, why can’t creditors and government regulators pierce the corporate veil in the other direction?” Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University, asked in an email.

That’s a question raised by 44 other law professors, who filed a friends-of-the-court brief that implored the Court to reject Hobby Lobby’s argument and hold the veil in place. Here’s what they argued:

Allowing a corporation, through either shareholder vote or board resolution, to take on and assert the religious beliefs of its shareholders in order to avoid having to comply with a generally-applicable law with a secular purpose is fundamentally at odds with the entire concept of incorporation. Creating such an unprecedented and idiosyncratic tear in the corporate veil would also carry with it unintended consequences, many of which are not easily foreseen.

In his opinion for Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito’s insisted the decision should be narrowly applied to the peculiarities of the case. But as my colleague Pat Caldwell writes, the logic of the argument is likely to invite a tide of new lawsuits, all with their own unintended consequences.

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Business, Law, Religion

Supreme Court reneges on promise a few days ago

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In the NY Times Adam Liptak points out the Catholic old boys on the Supreme Court have now expanded significantly the restricted Hobby Lobby ruling. That didn’t take long, did it?

In a decision that drew an unusually fierce dissent from the three female justices, the Supreme Court sided Thursday with religiously affiliated nonprofit groups in a clash between religious freedom and women’s rights.

The decision temporarily bars the government from enforcing against a Christian college part of the regulations that provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The court’s order was brief, provisional and unsigned, but it drew a furious reaction from the three female justices — Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan — who said the court had betrayed a promise it made on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which involved for-profit corporations.

“Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word,” the dissent, written by Justice Sotomayor, said. “Not so today.”

At issue in the order, involving Wheaton College in Illinois, are federal forms that groups must fill out and send to their insurers and plan administrators as an alternate way to deliver free contraception to be offered to female workers under the Affordable Care Act.

Monday’s majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., seemed to suggest that the accommodation in which the forms played a role was an acceptable alternative to having employers pay for the coverage. He referred to it when he said the government already “has at its disposal an approach that is less restrictive than requiring employers to fund contraception methods that violate their religious beliefs.”

The difference between a form sent to insurance companies and plan administrators on the one hand and a letter sent to the government on the other mattered, the college told the justices, “because it believes, as a religious matter, that signing the form would be impermissibly facilitating abortions and therefore forbidden,” the brief said.

Monday’s “Hobby Lobby” decision was just the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act. Details on the 5-4 decision and other challenges that could — if successful — have even deeper implications.
Video Credit By Carrie Halperin on Publish Date June 30, 2014. Image CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“To be sure, free citizens in a diverse nation will have different views about whether signing the form makes someone complicit,” the college’s brief said. “But that is a question of ‘religious and moral philosophy’ for Wheaton,” not the government. The quoted phrase came from the Hobby Lobby decision.

The court’s majority said Wheaton College need not fill out the forms. Instead, the order said, the college could just notify the government in writing. The government, it said, remains free “to facilitate the provision of full contraceptive coverage.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2014 at 4:19 pm

When Taliban meets Hobby Lobby…

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Steve Coll writes in the New Yorker:

Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence.

This year, three out of five of the world’s new polio cases have been found in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, particularly in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban and groups like it have run a de-facto state since about 2008. The great majority of the polio victims are children under two years old.

If the Pakistani Taliban, aided by clever lawyers, organized a closely held American corporation, and professed to run it on religious principles, might its employees be deprived of insurance coverage to inoculate their children against polio? And would the Supreme Court, by the five-to-four decision issued on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, endorse such a move?

In setting up stateside to enjoy the freedom proclaimed by the Court, the Taliban would have to overcome its awkward position as a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under American law. Shooting health workers with whom the Taliban disagrees would also be out of the question, since such acts would bring into play other strands of American law, such as the prohibition on homicide. (Residents of the F.A.T.A., governed by tribal codes that legitimize revenge killing, do not enjoy the same protection.) But these are obstacles that the Taliban’s lawyers, if they were good ones, might well overcome. The Taliban could inspire American followers to put together a corporate charter separately and independently, without any financial or military links to the banned mother organization. And the American offshoot could learn to hire lobbyists rather than gunmen.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s conservative majority, sought to evade such thought exercises by predicting, without evidence, that there will not be “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.”

Why not? Is it because the justices do not intend to extend their reasoning to companies that hold religious views less proximate to their own Christian beliefs? Or because the judges believe that they can enforce what they imagine to be a rational or permissible resistance to reproductive rights for women, while blocking what they might see as irrational resistance to transfusions and vaccines? As it happens, it is not just the Taliban who are paranoid about vaccines; many American groups, secular and religious, evince such skepticism. Some groups believe, for example, that certain childhood vaccines may cause autism, even though there is no scientific basis for such beliefs.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants—Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other—as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday’s ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women. If so, that is another failure of their reasoning, one that exposes what really seems to have gone on in this decision: four longtime adherents to the deeply rooted conservative movement to limit or ban abortion in the United States, joined by a fifth willing to defer to them, saw in the Hobby case an opportunity to advance their cause incrementally, and they reasoned to achieve that end—not, as their opinion claims, to construct a sustainable framework of religious resistance to public-health laws. . .

Continue reading.

Unfortunately, I believe the majority that supported the Hobby Lobby confused their religious beliefs with the law of the land.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Religion

Head on nail hit by Kevin Drum

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Is that TIMEspeak, or what? But Kevin Drum definitely nails it. And look at the number of Catholics on the Supreme Court: 6 out of 9. Three are Jewish. And thus undoubtedly the determination that the US government should be bound by Catholic doctrine. Those are the core beliefs of six of the nine justices: 67%.

A withering comment on the Roberts Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

And read Amy Davidson on the bad Hobby Lobby decision.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2014 at 2:18 pm

Court rules that corporations can have religious beliefs

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Corporate personhood took a big step, thanks to the John Roberts Supreme Court: corporations can have religious beliefs that the law cannot touch. For example, if a corporation is owned by people with a particular religious belief, the corporation picks up that religious belief and is exempted from laws that would challenge it. (Look for a spate of new religions that declare overtime pay to be sinful.)

I think this is a completely wrong-headed opinion and will quickly lead to efforts to claim religious exemption for corporations from a variety of laws.

Here’s a NY Times story on the decision; the story will be updated during the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2014 at 8:25 am

Posted in Law, Religion

Pope Francis doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk

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It should not be amazing when the Catholic church acts in accordance with their teachings, but it is: at last some strong action against (instead of covert encouragement of) the pedophiles of the Catholic hierarchy. Laurie Goodstein reports for the NY Times:

The Vatican has defrocked its former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, an archbishop from Poland who was accused of sexually abusing boys while he served as the pope’s representative in the Caribbean nation.

The former archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, 65, is the first papal nuncio known to have been removed from the priesthood because of accusations of child sexual abuse. The Vatican announced on Friday that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles abuse cases, had recently completed his canonical trial. He has two months to appeal the decision.

He still faces a criminal trial by the Vatican because, as a diplomat, he is a citizen of the Vatican city-state. It would be the first such trial held under new rules for criminal procedures implemented by the Vatican last year and a test of Pope Francis’ resolve to turn a page on the long-running sexual abuse scandal.

Francis will reportedly meet next week in Rome with abuse survivors from Ireland and other countries — the first time as pope that he will personally hear the testimony of those who have suffered abuse by Roman Catholic priests. Abuse survivors and their parents in Buenos Aires, where Francis was archbishop, said in interviews that they had requested meetings with him to share their stories and were consistently turned down.

The former ambassador’s case has brought international scrutiny to the Vatican’s procedures for handling charges of sexual abuse. Two United Nations panels looking into the church’s handling of sexual abuse cases this year closely questioned Vatican representatives in Geneva about whether the church would discipline him.

The ambassador was recalled to Rome in August after the archbishop of Santo Domingo, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, went to Rome to report the allegations against him. Dominican authorities opened an investigation after the ambassador had left, and they say they forwarded their report to the Vatican. But they said they could not prosecute him there because he was protected by diplomatic immunity.

The case has also reverberated in Poland, where the ambassador was raised and ordained as a priest by Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, who was canonized as a saint in April. John Paul made him a bishop in 2000. The ambassador was reported to have been seen in the company of another Polish priest serving in the Dominican Republic, the Rev. Wojciech Gil (known as Father Alberto), who was accused of sexually abusing altar boys in his rural parish in the Dominican Republic. Father Gil fled to Poland last year, and in February he was indicted there on four counts of sexually abusing children in the Dominican Republic, according to news reports. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2014 at 7:19 am

Posted in Law, Religion

Islam in Afghanistan

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If you convert from Islam to Christianity, then you must be killed, along with your three-year-old son (who is deemed a bastard (punishable by death, apparently) because the father is not a Muslim).

See this sad story. From the article:

Josef’s brother-in-law Ibrahim arrived in Kabul recently, leaving behind his family and business in Pakistan, to hunt down the apostate and kill him. Reached by telephone, Ibrahim, who uses only one name, offered a reporter for The New York Times $20,000 to tell him where Josef was hiding.

“If I find him, once we are done with him, I will kill his son as well, because his son is a bastard,” Ibrahim said, referring to Josef’s 3-year-old child. “He is not from a Muslim father.”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2014 at 11:51 am

Posted in Religion

Mormon authoritarianism moves on-line

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Laurie Goodstein writes in the NY Times:

Rock Waterman, a retired innkeeper in California, writes a blog called Pure Mormonism, which attracts Mormons so orthodox that they believe their church is not sufficiently adhering to its own doctrines.

Last month, Mr. Waterman posted a combative challenge addressed to one of the Mormon Church’s top leaders: “Stop making up your own rules and try preaching the Gospel of Christ for a change.”

Two days later, he said, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop and told to either stop blogging or resign his church membership. If he did not resign he would face excommunication, he said the bishop told him, on orders from another official higher up — one of the church’s leaders known as an Area Seventy.
Continue reading the main story

From California to Virginia and states in between, more than a dozen Mormons interviewed in the past week said they had recently been informed by their bishops that they faced excommunication or risked losing permission to enter a temple because of comments they had made online about their faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

These members said their bishops had questioned them about specific posts they had made on their blogs, Twitter and Facebook, in the comment streams of websites or in conversations in chat rooms.

The kinds of comments that have attracted the scrutiny of bishops and stake presidents, who are regional supervisors, include support for the ordination of women; advocacy for same-sex marriage; serious doubts about church history or theology; and, as in Mr. Waterman’s case, protests that the church demands more in tithes than its doctrine requires.

Michael Otterson, managing director of the church’s public affairs office, said: “There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.”

However, he said, church leaders do grow concerned when discussion is used to recruit others for campaigns to change church doctrine or structure.

“When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause and creating literature for members to share in their local congregations,” Mr. Otterson said, “the church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.”

The crackdown is much broader than the action taken last week against two prominent Mormons, who were threatened with excommunication: Kate Kelly, the founder of the Ordain Women movement, and John P. Dehlin, creator of the Mormon Stories podcast and an advocate for gay Mormons.

It has affected Mormons perceived as dissidents from across the ideological spectrum: liberals such as Ms. Kelly, Mr. Dehlin and others who support same-sex marriage, and conservatives who devoutly believe Mormon teaching and Scripture but criticize the church as straying from it, such as Mr. Waterman and Denver Snuffer, a lawyer in Utah who blogs and writes books about Mormonism. Mr. Snuffer said on his blog that he was excommunicated for apostasy last fall. . .

Continue reading. One Mormon woman was threatened with excommunication for posting anonymous comments in an on-line chat forum: her bishop sent her emails quoting what she had said.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2014 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Religion, Technology

A photo that speaks volumes

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New pope looks at old vice-pope

Photo from 2007. The future Pope Francis (then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires) is on the left, seemingly taken aback by the splendor of dress of Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who is now under investigation.

The story, by Ingrid Rowland in the NY Review of Books, is well worth reading for those interested in the politics (and corruption) of the Catholic church. Pope Francis has a task equivalent to cleaning the Augean stables.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2014 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Government, Religion

Bible verses

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The 10 worst verses in the Bible, at SOF defines itself:

“We’re here for people who prefer their religion disorganized,” says the Ship’s editor and designer, Simon Jenkins. “Our aim is to help Christians be self-critical and honest about the failings of Christianity, as we believe honesty can only strengthen faith.”

Regular features include the Mystery Worshipper, the Caption Competition, and Gadgets for God. Ship of Fools has also run a number of projects, including The Ark, an online gameshow, and Church of Fools, an early experiment in online 3D church. The Laugh Judgment, our investigation into funny and offensive religious jokes, prompted journalist Julie Burchill to say of us: “If one must choose a modern symbol of what is so good about Britain, I would choose Ship of Fools.”

And about the 10 worst verses, they comment:

All in all, the results are a mixture of the historically horrific and milder restrictions that are still being applied in our own times. It may be a surprise that biblical sexism caps biblical genocide, but maybe it’s because it’s more of a live issue. No one is using the Book of Samuel to justify genocide today, but the words of Paul are still used to silence women.

It’s an unedifying list, but we think the Bible can survive bringing these shadowy verses into the spotlight. It’s not the all-or-nothing book that fundamentalists (atheist and Christian) say that we must either accept wholesale or burn. We need a view of the Bible that is nuanced enough to treasure its comforts and challenges, its classic stories and groundbreaking ethical wisdom, while facing the plain fact that some of it is unacceptable.

And, for balance, Valerie Tarico offers at AlterNet Bible Verses That Atheists Love.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2014 at 11:28 am

Posted in Religion

Misogyny, cont’d

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Terrence McCoy reports in the Washington Post:

On Tuesday, a pregnant 25-year-old woman was stoned to death by her family for marrying a man she loved.

The stoning took place in the middle of the day, outside a courthouse, beside a busy thoroughfare. The woman and her husband had been “in love,” her husband said, and they’d gone to a courthouse to sign the paperwork. Outside, the woman’s father, brothers and extended family waited. When the couple emerged, the family reportedly tried to snatch her, then murdered her.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” her father told police, adding that it had been an “honor killing.”

The anecdote is horrifying. But even more horrifying is the regularity with which honor killings and stonings occur in Pakistan. Despite creeping modernity, secular condemnation and the fact there’s no reference to stoning in the Koran, honor killings claim the lives of more than 1,000 Pakistani women every year, according to a Pakistani rights group.

They have widespread appeal. Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis support stonings for adultery according to a Pew survey, and only 8 percent oppose it. Even those who chose modernity over Islamic fundamentalism overwhelmingly favor stonings, according to Pew research.

It’s the year 2014. Why is this still happening?

Some Islamic fundamentalists think that only through the murder of an offending family member can honor be restored to the rest of the family. Honor killings predominantly affect women – 943 women were killed under such circumstances in 2011 and another 869 in 2013, though not all of them were stoned. Some were just gunned down in cold blood.

One man in Punjab province suspected his teenage nieces of having “inappropriate relations” with two boys. So on January 11, he killed both girls, confessed and said he did it for “honor.”

Another teenage girl, living in Sukkur, was allegedly shot dead by her brother while she was doing homework because her brother thought she was sleeping with a man.

One mom and dad allegedly killed their 15-year-old daughter with acid because they said she looked at a boy and they ”feared dishonor.” ”There was a boy who came by on a motorcycle,” her father told BBC. My daughter “turned to look at him twice. I told her before not to do that; it’s wrong. People talk about us.”

The mother added: “She said ‘I didn’t do it on purpose. I won’t look again.’ By then I had already thrown the acid. It was her destiny to die this way.”

Those who are stoned in an honor killing are oftentimes accused of committing adultery. Both genders face stonings in Pakistan and across 14 Muslim countries, but women are more frequently the targets. . .

Continue reading.

Note that many of these are killed merely on suspicion, but one cannot cast stones (as it were): the United States routinely kills unidentified persons that it suspects might be terrorists—even though quite often the suspicions prove false (e.g., wedding parties, gathering of village elders, etc.). We went through a long period to develop a system of justice in which mere suspicion is insufficient, but Obama and Bush have taken us back to killing on suspicion.

What’s awful about suspicion is that the person who is killed may have done nothing to warrant the suspicion, as seems to be the case in several of the instances described above. The suspicion resides in the person who does the killing, and a very suspicious person might kill many—as does the US.

I’m all for cultural diversity, but some cultures simply are wrong in terms of human rights. It would be interesting to know the psychological forces that make parents hate their children enough to murder them merely on suspicion. One suspects (that word again) that the parents are projecting quite a bit of their own internal struggles, but it would be nice to find out whether and to what degree that is true.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2014 at 10:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Mythos, Logos, and meaning

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The Paul Rosenberg article I blogged about earlier today has some good food for thought.

I observe that as a general rule, religion looks for evidence to confirm beliefs (e.g., viewing everyday coincidences as miracles), whereas science looks for evidence to disconfirm beliefs (if none can be found, the beliefs are provisionally accepted as true—always subject to later evidence).

An extreme example happened when I worked in Cleveland in 1963-64. A quartet that sang religious songs for churches was on tour, and they missed their flight by one wrong turn: the driver said, “Do I turn left here?” and the navigator responded, “Right,” so the driver turned right. The navigator meant “correct,” and by the time they got back on track they were late enough to miss the plane, which crashed and killed all on board.

The quartet realized that God was sending them a message, that their work was important and to keep it up. They accepted as given that God would kill a couple of hundred people simply to send them a message that would fit in a 10-word telegram. Why God was unable, in His omnipotence, to send the telegram rather than kill all the passengers they did not address. Still, they saw the crash as confirming evidence that God was supportive of their work (though not to the point of sending them a check).

However, this shows a good example of mythos at work: the quartet was looking for meaning in their mistake and the subsequent accident, and they found meaning. They were not interested in logos, the source of my snarky comments above. The problem for mythos is that nature doesn’t have a lot of meaning: nature is what happens. What is the meaning of an electron? of a gravity wave? of our atmosphere? What we “understand” when we look at nature, it seems to me, is not the kind of meaning that satisfies the religious urge, but rather an grasp of causality and causal chains.

UPDATE: I don’t mean to denigrate meaning, BTW. I just don’t think we find it in nature. “Meaning” seems to me to reside in the emergent phenomenon known as human culture—and in human culture, meaning is important and influences us enough to affect our health.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2014 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Religion, Science

Religion and science are like fishing and chess: They have nothing to do with each other

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Some creationists are very upset with Neil deGrasse Tyson because he mentioned that Faraday was a devout Christian who worked as a scientist without involving his religious beliefs: he did believe that nature’s laws come from God, but in his work as a scientist, he simply tried to find the laws. God was not in the picture. Alternet has a brief post on the controversy.

I wonder whether you can determine the religion of a chess player simply by looking at the records of his or her games. That is, is chess played differently by (say) Christians, atheists, Buddhists, and Muslims? I don’t think so. A chess player follows the rules of chess, seeking to be creative within the rules. The result is the game. It’s not that a chess player must leave his or her religion out of the game; rather, the game itself is played without reference to religion.

Science, it seems to me, is much the same: it has rules of play—the scientific method—and is based on evidence and data that are the same regardless of the religion of the observer. Hypotheses are tested by evidence from nature, and that is done without reference to the religion of the scientist doing the investigation.

In science as in chess, the religion of the participant is irrelevant to the rules of the game and to how it is played.

This should not be a difficult idea: religion is irrelevant in many areas of knowledge. Cooking, gardening, fishing, construction, physics, and so on each uses methods and processes that are independent of religion beliefs of the practitioner: eggs don’t cook differently for Christians and atheists.

The notion that religion has a role in every field of endeavor makes no more sense than that chess has a role in every field of endeavor.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 May 2014 at 10:36 am

Posted in Religion, Science

Sex abuse in the Protestant church

with 2 comments

Sex abuse and pedophilia are obviously not restricted to the Catholic church: as has been pointed out, we have seen too many instances of pedophilia in our public schools—but in public schools, notifying the police is generally done immediately. This approach is rare  when such things happen in the Catholic church or in private schools. The first instinct for the church and private schools is to protect the (undeserved) reputation of the institution by denying the event, covering up the event, and in general blaming the victim. Public schools tend to worry more about their students and less about their reputations.

Now, it seems, Protestant churches seem to have fallen into the pit of protecting the institution’s reputation. Democracy Now! has a good interview (with transcript) of the issue. Their blurb:

Is the Protestant world is teetering on the edge of a sex-abuse scandal similar to the one that rocked the Catholic Church? We are joined by reporter Kathryn Joyce, whose cover story in The American Prospect profiles Boz Tchividjian, a law professor at Liberty University — a school founded by Reverend Jerry Falwell — and former prosecutor who worked on many sexual abuse cases. Tchividjian used his experience to found GRACE — Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. GRACE made headlines in February when the famous evangelical school, Bob Jones University, hired it to interview faculty and students about their experiences with sexual assault, then fired it before the it had a chance to report the results — only to hire it back after a public outcry. Tchividjian is the grandson of the famous evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 May 2014 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion


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