Category Archives: religion

Was Discovery Communications Complicit In Covering Up A Crime? Inquiring Minds ….

I first wrote about the Quiverfull movement waaay back in 2009. I called it a cult, and it is a cult, a creepy pedophilia cult (if you aren’t familiar with this group or its beliefs, Gawker has a handy dandy rundown under the headline “Quiverfull of Shit.”)

I’m not the least bit surprised to learn that Josh Duggar has admitted to sexually molesting children as they slept — some of them his own sisters. I’m not the least bit surprised to learn that one of the leaders of this movement, Bill Gothard, has himself been accused of sex-based offenses.

What I do find interesting is that it’s become increasingly clear that The Learning Channel/Discovery Communications knew of Josh Duggar’s sex offenses years before the first show of the reality series aired, while the Duggars were starring in specials on sister network Discovery Health. And, despite knowing this information, they still signed the family to star in their own reality show, falsely promoted the family as some kind of wholesome Christian novelty, misrepresented the family to the public, and profited from it. They lied to their advertisers and they lied to their viewers. How is this not fraud?

According to the police report published by InTouch, the investigation was sparked when someone tipped off an Oprah Winfrey staffer in 2006, in advance of a taping by the family on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Here’s how it all went down:

The Duggars told police that at the time Josh was accused of, and admitting to, these sexual acts, “a family friend aware of what had happened had written down in a letter what he knew of [redacted, Josh’s] actions…That letter had been placed in a book and had subsequently been forgotten about. Just recently [in 2006] the book had been loaned to someone else with the letter in it and another person discovered the letter.

The Duggars refused to tell police who wrote the letter and who found it.

When the family was scheduled to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in 2006, an email was sent to the show warning them about the alleged molestation. The email was written by a 61-year-old female who is not identified.

Harpo Studios faxed the letter to the Department of Human Services hotline. The report was then opened for investigation, leading to the investigation by Springdale police.

When police asked Jim Bob to bring Josh in for an interview in 2006, he attempted to hire a lawyer and refused to produce his son for questioning. At least two lawyers refused to take his case. “Det. Hignite received a voice mail from Mr. Duggar stating that [redacted] had hired an attorney and would not be coming in for an interview.”

Oprah Winfrey has been very open about her own history of being a survivor of child sexual abuse. So good for her and her staffers for starting this whole ball rolling. And shame on everyone who subsequently covered it up: the Arkansas state trooper who let Josh Duggar off the hook and two years later was himself jailed for child pornography, and most especially Discovery Communications. Because it defies belief that TLC and Discovery didn’t know about this — indeed, after the Oprah cancellation, the internet was on fire with rumors about Josh Duggar’s sexual offenses. At the very least, Discovery Health would have wanted to know about the abrupt and last-minute Oprah cancellation.

This needs to be investigated. The FCC needs to look into this. If a basic-cable network is covering up crimes against children and then promoting a pedophilia cult into the popular culture, they are not acting in the public interest. This is far worse than Bono saying an award is “fucking awesome” or Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. These are real crimes, and it appears the network not only knew about it, but ignored it so they could promote this creepy, far-from-wholesome family for their own financial gain.

Shameful.

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Filed under cults, culture wars, media, religion

When A Religion Dies

The two religious groups with the largest influence over our domestic policy continue to die:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

[…]

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Not coincidentally, these are the two groups who have been screaming the loudest over domestic issues like education, marriage equality, abortion, and women’s access to birth control. These are the people who sued over the Obamacare birth control mandate. These are the people trying to exert even more influence over our state legislatures and federal government.

Of course they are dying. This flurry of activity in the public arena is a symptom of a dying religion. They are trying to regain their influence over American public life through legislative activity, because they are losing the battle on the cultural front.

This is what happens when a religion dies. And this chart should send shudders through the Republican Party, so closely intertwined with the Christian/evangelical faith that the two are practically indistinguishable. Unaffiliated, up 6.7% in the past seven years. That’s atheists, agnostics and “nothing in particulars.” Non-Christians, up 1.2% in the past seven years. That’s Muslims, Hindus and “other.” Christians, down 7.8% in the past seven years.

These are the trends, and I don’t seem them reversing any time soon.

29 Comments

Filed under religion, religious right

Religious Freedom

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is threatening to pull its 2017 convention out of Indianapolis if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs a bill allowing companies to discriminate against GLBT people under the guise of “religious freedom.” In a letter to the governor the denomination writes:

“Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.

Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is “hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.”

I’d love to invite them to Nashville. After all, we’re the city whose Metro Council passed an anti-discrimination bill. Unfortunately, IIRC, it was later over-ridden by the bigots in our state legislature, so we don’t exactly have much moral authority on this issue. But can I just tell you how refreshing it is to see a church denomination take a bold stand on issues of equality?

More:

“As a Christian church,” it read, “we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at (the) table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table.”

The letter was signed by denomination’s General Minister and President Sharon E. Watkins, Division of Overseas Ministries Julia Brown Karimu and Disciples Home Missions President Ronald J. Degges.

The Disciples of Christ has held its annual convention in Indianapolis three times since 1989. Adams expected up to 8,000 people to attend in 2017. The estimated economic impact would be about $5.9 million, according to VisitIndy.

Well, so much for Indianapolis. Two other major conventions have also alerted the governor that they will skip Indianapolis if the bill becomes law, one a music festival and the other the city’s largest annual convention, a group called Gen Con.

Look, there’s just no money in being a bigoted asshole. Just cut it out.

Let me also say, if your religion requires you to be a bigoted asshole, then I have no use for your religion. Can you just imagine? Whatever happened to “Love one another as I have loved you”? Of course, it’s not about the Bible. It’s about belonging to a club that needs to breed hatred and fear of “the other” to justify its lack of cultural impact. You people are supposed to go out and be salt and light in the world, that’s your Great Commission, and yet all you can do is fight for the right of a bakery to not make a gay couple’s wedding cake.

Losers.

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Filed under GLBT, religion, religious right

Faith-Healing And Snake Oil In Nashville

Nashville’s largest healthcare provider, St. Thomas Health, has been running this super-creepy “faith-healing” ad campaign for the past year or so now. I can’t even tell you how offensive and obnoxious I find it. It exploits is based on a quote from the Gospel of Luke, “nothing shall be impossible with God,” and while they leave out the “with God” part, the images that accompany the campaign are so overtly religious, it’s obvious what they’re selling here: faith-healing, snake-oil, and promises of miracles for those who believe.

Imagine seeing this image plastered all over town, on billboards, buses and full-page newspaper ads:Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 5.36.07 PM_0

How does this not trivialize religion?

2014-06-26-10449517_510279559101608_6658025120807367642_n-thumb

The TV ads are even worse. Seeing a team of doctors and nurses holding hands in prayer over an operating table does not make me want to go to this hospital. It makes me want to run in the opposite direction, as far and as fast as possible. It does not inspire confidence in the surgical team. It makes me think of this charlatan:

faith.healer

On top of which, there are quite a few things that are impossible at St. Thomas Hospital. An abortion, for one thing.

I’ve been really uncomfortable with this ad campaign for a long, long time, and while I haven’t posted about it, others have (notably the Huffington Post, here, and this medical blog, here.) Interestingly, some of the campaign’s biggest detractors are religious people. From the latter link:

As I drive home from work (at an unashamedly for-profit hospital) everyday, I pass one of Nashville’s omnipresent “Nothing shall be impossible” billboards. While I am a Bible believing Christian with complete faith in God’s miraculous healing powers, the sight of the ad campaign makes me uneasy. I’m not one to be particularly politically correct or easily offended but the ad campaign gives off the illusion that if you become a patient at St. Thomas, God’s healing power is on your side.

To me, the scriptural slogan seems to imply an unintended opposite effect- it minimizes the power of God. My God cannot be contained within one hospital’s walls. He does not work in ways that we can direct with publicity stunts, let alone ways we can ever hope to understand. He may choose to heal you as a patient at St. Thomas…but he may not. That’s for him to decide, not for hospital admins looking for a raise to direct.

It’s just so tacky to exploit peoples’ religious feelings to sell something. It’s gross, and it’s disrespectful. And let’s take a look at exactly what kind of miracle we’re selling here, shall we?

Few of the people I spoke to had any idea about the actual context of Luke 1:37. It comes when Mary questions the angel Gabriel about how she will become pregnant since she is a virgin. Gabriel points to her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant after many years of having been barren, and announces, “nothing will be impossible with God” (NRSV). Indeed, Mary does become pregnant. The implication of draping this verse across a hospital entrance is that any kind of healing is possible: a barren woman becomes pregnant, and then even a virgin becomes pregnant.

St. Thomas Health does not offer fertility treatments.

So much fail.

9 Comments

Filed under advertising, Nashville, religion

The Unenlightenment

File this under “crap with which I will no longer put up”:

“The Principle,” asserts the press release, “will begin an exclusive limited engagement at AMC theaters in Burbank, CA, Orange, CA, and Spokane, WA, on January 23rd, with additional markets opening in the weeks following.” There will also be a screening for critics in Los Angeles Jan. 13.

The release goes on to say, “‘The Principle’ brings to light astonishing new scientific observations challenging the Copernican Principle. The film explores, from all sides, the question of Earth’s station in the universe and whether it could, in fact, have a unique importance. Astonishing results from recent large-scale surveys of our visible Universe disclose surprising evidence of a preferred direction in the cosmos, a so-called ‘Axis of Evil,’ aligned with our supposedly insignificant Earth.”

The Copernican Principle, of course, is the centuries-old scientific discovery that the Earth is not the center of the universe/solar system. And no, I do not have time for this bullshit. I do not have the patience to deal with pseudoscience and conspiracy nonsense any more.

And that goes for the stuff coming from my friends on the left, too. I get a lot of crap from my New Age-y friends making all sorts of ludicrous claims and I simply do not have the patience to deal with this any more. I do not want to hear about climate change denialism by people who know only politics not science, nor do I want to hear about the latest health scam from people who know only New Age bullshit not medicine. I don’t want to hear about how people’s thoughts can change water molecules or that ujjayi breath boosts the immune system or any of the crap peddled by practitioners of ayurvedic medicine.

But back to our film:

The force behind all of this is a man named Robert Sungenis. He’s quite a piece of work. The author of a book titled Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right, Sungenis is angry because the heliocentric model has cast doubt on the authority of the church and its leaders. He has written, “Prior to Galileo, the church was in full command of the world, and governments and academia were subservient to her.” (According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Sungenis is also an anti-Semite who denies the Holocaust.)

Um, AMC? You wouldn’t show The Interview but you will show this? What the hell is wrong with you people? Do you have no standards? None at all?

Also, Kate Mulgrew and the others who were duped into participating in this crank’s propaganda film: learn to Google, you idiots. You’ve just given credibility to a most obscene form of scientific denialism, not to mention endorsed the views of an anti-Semitic crackpot. Slow clap, folks.

The writer and producer of this film is a guy named Rick DeLano who claims years in the film business but his IMDB profile came up with a big fat nothing. However, he claims that negative reaction to his film is all a giant conspiracy. Of course he does. That’s what they all say — even my friends on the left when I tell them the water molecule thing is bullshit. “Oh, that’s just what they want you to think.”

Honestly I am so over this. When did everyone in the world decide that reason was a bad thing and crazy unfounded theories were the truth?

As the story says, “never underestimate the power of slickly-produced propaganda.” How long before this nonsense is taught in our schools?

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Filed under religion, religious fundamentalism, science

Unhappy Holidays

I have this theory that fundiegelical Christians are so wrapped up in the War On Christmas, not because of what the holiday represents Biblically, but because it’s the one time of year when they aren’t culturally out of step with the rest of an increasingly secular country. Or perhaps more accurately, it’s the one time of year when even secular America is in step with them.

And having people say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” or demands that a menorah share space beside a traditional Nativity scene in the public square encroaches on that last little square of cultural real estate that they can call theirs.

Kinda makes me feel sorry for them in a way.

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Filed under Holidays, religion, War On Christmas

Today In Church And State

[UPDATE]:

As of Saturday, June 28, the McKnight campaign signs are gone, but the stuff on the church sign is still there.

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Just saw this on my way home from the grocery store this morning:

Nice Tax-Exempt Status You've Got There. Shame If Anything Happened To It

Nice Tax-Exempt Status You’ve Got There. Shame If Anything Happened To It

Amendment One is an anti-abortion measure. I had to Google this McKnight fellow, but he’s a big-time right-to-lifer.

This church isn’t too far from my house. I’ve always referred to it as the Wingnut Bible Church because their signs are always advertising some wingnutty seminar or program: “End-Times Prophecy,” “Justice Sunday” and crap like that. Every July Fourth they put about a dozen or so ginormous American flags on their property, because Jesus was an American and a Founder and Christian Nation and Shut Up. But I’ve never seen them outright politick like this before.

I’m not a lawyer, definitely not a Constitutional one, but I’m pretty sure the IRS frowns on these kinds of outright political endorsements from tax-exempt churches. Don’t they?

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Filed under abortion, church and state, Nashville, religion, religious fundamentalism, Tennessee