Archive for January, 2014


Jesus and Mo

On the importance of the right to offend

–   By Kenan Malik   – Thursday,   30th January 2014

The Jesus & Mo image tweeted by Maajid Nawaz and later censored on Channel 4 News

This article is cross-posted from Kenan Malik’s blog Pandaemonium

‘Thank you @Channel4News you just pushed us liberal Muslims further into a ditch’. So tweeted Maajid Nawaz, prospective Liberal Democratic parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, last night. He had every right to be incandescent. Channel 4 News had just held a debate about the Jesus and Mo cartoons and about the campaign to deselect Nawaz for tweeting one of the cartoons, not finding them offensive. Channel 4 decided that they were offensive and could not be shown. It would have been bad enough had the channel decided simply not to show the cartoon. What it did was worse. It showed the cartoon – but blanked out Muhammad’s face (and only Muhammad’s face). In the context of a debate about whether Nawaz had been right to tweet the cartoon in the first place, or whether his critics were right to hound him for ‘offending’ Muslims, it was an extraordinary decision. The broadcaster had effectively taken sides in the debate – and taken the side of the reactionaries against the liberal.

There has been something quite surreal about the whole controversy over Maajid Nawaz and his refusal to be offended by the Jesus and Mo cartoons. A one-time Islamist turned anti-extremist campaigner, Nawaz is a founder of the Quilliam Foundation, dedicated to combating Islamic extremism, and Liberal Democrat PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn. Two weeks ago he took part in the BBC’s Big Questions programme, in which there was a debate about religious offence. The programme discussed an incident at the LSE Fresher’s Fair when two students from the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society were forced to cover up the ‘Jesus and Mo’ t-shirts they had been wearing. (The LSE later apologized to the students for its heavy-handed reaction.) For those who don’t know, Jesus and Mo is a cartoon strip featuring Jesus and Muhammad sharing a house and discussing religion, philosophy and politics, with each other and sometimes with an atheist barmaid down the pub. It is clever, witty and, of course, irreverent

Nawaz insisted on the show that he found nothing offensive about the cartoons. ‘I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it’, he observed. Astounded by the fact that BBC had refused to show the cartoons on air, Nawaz later tweeted an image of one to once again make the point that there was nothing offensive about it. At which point all hell broke lose.

Fellow Liberal Democrat Mohammed Shafiq organized an international campaign to hound Nawaz for causing ‘immense offence and disrespect to the religious beliefs and sentiments’ of Muslims. A petition was set up calling for Nawaz’s deselection. The activist, ‘community leader’ and prolific tweeter Mohammed Ansar joined the campaign against Nawaz, urging people to sign the petition (though absurdly he also insists that he neither finds the cartoons offensive nor necessarily wants Nawaz sacked; that apparently is ‘nuance’). Nawaz has received a torrent of abuse on social media and a sackful of death threats.

There is something truly bizarre (and yet in keeping with the zeitgeist of our age) that someone should become the focus of death threats and an international campaign of vilification for suggesting that an inoffensive cartoon was, well, inoffensive.

From the Rushdie affair to the controversy over the Danish cartoons, from the forcing offstage of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti to the attempt this week by members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to shut down the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of The Bible: The Complete Word Of God (a decision thankfully later reversed), reactionaries have often used campaigns against ‘offence’ as a political weapon with which to harass opponents and as a means of bolstering their community support. The anti-Nawaz campaign is no different. Mohammed Shafiq and Mohammed Ansar both have had public spats with Nawaz, and both are cynically exploiting the claim of ‘offensiveness’ to reclaim political kudos.

What gives the reactionaries the room to operate and to flex their muscles is, however, the pusillanimity of many so-called liberals, their unwillingness to stand up for basic liberal principles, their fear of causing offence, their reluctance to call so-called community leaders to account. This is why Channel 4’s stance was so obnoxious. The broadcaster’s role is not to take sides in these debates. It is to tease out the arguments, and to stand by basic journalistic principles, including the principle of free speech. What Channel 4 did was the very opposite. It abandoned its journalistic principles, refused to stand up for free speech and took sides with the reactionaries. The Liberal Democrats themselves have been equally spineless. Though some have publicly defended Nawaz, leading figures have been noticeably reluctant to stick their necks out. It took almost a week before party leader Nick Clegg put out a statement, and then a relatively bland one, urging both sides to play nicely.

Such backsliding liberals need reminding of some basic points about liberalism, free speech and the giving of offence:

1 There is a right to free speech. There is no right not to be offended

People have the right to say what they wish, short of inciting violence, however offensive others may find it. Others have the right not to listen or to watch. Nobody has the right to be listened to. And nobody has the right not to be offended.

2 It is minority communities who most suffer from censorship

Many people argue that while free speech may be a good, it must necessarily be less free in a plural society. For diverse societies to function and to be fair, so the argument runs, we need to show respect not just for individuals but also for the cultures and beliefs in which those individuals are embedded and which helps give them a sense of identity and being. This requires that we police public discourse about those cultures and beliefs, both to minimise friction between antagonistic groups and to protect the dignity of those individuals embedded in them. As the sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, that ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’

In fact, it is precisely because we do live in a plural society that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In such a society, it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. Almost by definition such clashes express what it is to live in a diverse society. And so they should be openly resolved than suppressed in the name of ‘respect’ or ‘tolerance’.

But more than this: the giving of offence is not just inevitable, it is also important. Any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. Or to put it another way: ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

The notion of giving offence suggests that certain beliefs are so important or valuable to certain people that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted, or caricatured or even questioned. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance. The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them. And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged. Once we give up on the right to offend in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘respect’, we constrain our ability to challenge those in power, and therefore to challenge injustice.

3 What is often called offence to a community is actually a debate within that community

People often talk about ‘offence to a community’. More often than not what they actually mean is ‘debate within a community’. Some Muslims find the Jesus and Mo cartoons offensive. Other Muslims – Maajid Nawaz among them – do not. Some found The Satanic Verses offensive. Others did not. Some Sikhs found Behzti offensive. Others did not. It is because what is often called ‘offence to a community’ is in reality a ‘debate within a community’ that so many of the flashpoints over offensiveness have been over works produced by minority artists – Salman Rushdie, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Hanif Kuresihi, Monica Ali, Sooreh Hera, Taslima Nasrin, MF Hussain, and so on.

The trouble is, that every time one of these controversies comes along only the conservative, reactionary figures are seen as the authentic voices of minority communities. So the critics of The Satanic Verses were seen as authentic Muslims, but not Salman Rushdie. The campaigners against Behzti were seen as authentic Sikhs, but not Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti. And so on. Salman Rushdie and Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti (and Maajid Nawaz) are regarded as too Westernized, secular or progressive to be truly of their community. To be a proper Muslim, in other words, is to be offended by the Jesus and Mo cartoons or The Satanic Verses, to be a proper Sikh is to be offended by Behzti. The argument that offensive talk should be restrained is, then, both rooted in a stereotype of what it is to be an authentic Muslim or a Sikh and helps reinforce that stereotype. It plays into the racist view of minority communities. That is why it is important to challenge the campaign against Maajid Nawaz not simply as free speech campaigners but as anti-racist campaigners too.

4 There can be no freedom of religion without the freedom to offend

Freedom of worship is another form of freedom of expression – the freedom to believe as one likes about the divine and to assemble and enact rituals with respect to those beliefs. You cannot protect freedom of worship without protecting freedom of expression. Take, for instance, the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders’ attempt to outlaw the Qur’an in Holland because it ‘promotes hatred’. Or the attempt by Transport for London to ban a Christian anti-gay poster because it is ‘offensive to gays’. Both Wilders and TfL are wrong, just as Channel 4 is wrong. Believers have as much right to offend liberal sensibilities as liberals have the right to offend religious ones. Freedom of speech requires that everyone has the right to cause offence. So does freedom of religion.


Magdalen-asylum

United Nations Challenges Vatican on Magdalene Asylums and Forced Adoptions

Virtual slaves at a Magdalene Asylum

As I have noted before, the Oscar nominated movie Philomena is a must see. Not only is the acting superb but the movie is based on a true story and in the end is a staggering indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, the United Nations is demanding accountability and more importantly records on the Church’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and the manner in which young women were forced to relinquish their babies to adoption – often for a fee paid to the religious order running the horrid institutions. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the Vatican is trying to claim that it had and still has no control over these orders and institutions located outside of the Vatican. It’s the same disingenuous approach that has been taken by the Vatican in seeking to shirk blame for the worldwide sex abuse scandal. Here are highlights from Religion Dispatches:

In addition to calling Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and Bishop Charles J. Scicluna to account for a decades-long, worldwide epidemic of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Committee conducting this historic proceeding in Geneva last week also demanded responses to questions concerning the church’s trampling on girls’ reproductive health and rights.

Chairwoman Kirsten Sandberg and others wanted to know what the church was doing about uncovering the whereabouts of the children born to young, unmarried women who were essentially enslaved in Ireland’s Magdalene Asylums or Laundries and forced to relinquish their babies to adoption, a situation brilliantly dramatized in the film Philomena, with Oscar-nominated Judi Dench playing the real Philomena Lee.

“The position of the Holy See,” pronounced Tomasi, the Vatican’s Geneva representative to the UN, “is that the state has already taken its responsibility and is proceeding…through the courts….It is the responsibility of local institutions.” In other words, it’s not our job— the same position the Vatican officials took, repeatedly and disingenuously, on their refusal to act on local clergy sex abuse crimes.

Charging that the policy of the church institutions that ran the Laundries has not been to turn over their records, a blunt Sandberg issued a challenge: “I trust that you will ask the local churches to do that.” Neither Tomasi nor Scicluna, formerly the Vatican’s top sex abuse prosecutor, said that they would.

The chairwoman also brought up the story from Brazil of “the nine-year-old girl who had an emergency life-saving abortion after rape by her stepfather,” followed by the excommunication of mother and doctor, “with no measure taken against the father,” aka, the rapist. “Explain this,” Sandberg said. In that case, regional archbishops Jose Cardoso Sobrinho astonishingly admitted that the rapist had “committed an extremely serious crime,” but that “abortion is even more serious.”

Soon after, another committee member, Hungary’s Maria Herczog, brought up a situation from Nicaragua, where the Catholic Church vigorously supports a ban on all abortions. The situation involved “a ten-year-old girl forced to give birth after being raped, with the full support of the Catholic Church and the local community.

The church’s recent history worldwide is replete with stories of priests forcing the women they impregnated to have abortions; of nuns impregnated by priests being thrown out of their convents while the men remain priests in good standing; of mothers of priests’ children being forced to sign confidentiality agreements to get any support at all.

These issues—forcing children to bear children, forced child relinquishment, abandonment of children by Catholic priests—were not the main subjects of this hearing, but that they were mentioned is noteworthy because the church’s history of child abuse has taken many forms. And that history is tied intimately to the hierarchy’s history of secrecy, hypocrisy on the sexuality of its own clerics, misogyny which denies women’s moral authority, and gender apartheid, which relegates women to second-class status and surely enabled those all-male power brokers in clerical collars to callously dismiss the desperate mothers of molested children who came to them for action.

There is more to the piece that deserves a full read. The bottom line is that as an institution the Roman Catholic Church – and most certainly its hierarchy from the Pope on down – is morally bankrupt and unworthy of any respect, at least by decent moral people. Those who continue to attend mass and contribute to the Church monetarily are complicit in the horrors done by the hierarchy and the predators that it protects. Catholics need to open their eyes to the truth and walk away. The Vatican and the hierarchy will only change if and when the Church’s survival is seriously threatened by a mass exodus of members and a shutting off of the money spigot
.


benedictsaysdonohue2
When the “Family Values” Agenda Includes Child Sex Abuse

This is crossposted from Eyes Right, the blog of Political Research Associates, where I will be doing a series of posts on the Christian Right and child sex abuse. — FC

The exposure of widespread sex abuse by Roman Catholic clergy–and of the subsequent cover-ups by church leaders–has rocked the Catholic church for more than a decade. Less well known, though closely analogous, is the issue of widespread abuse within Protestant evangelical churches.  Such stories raise doubt that the evangelical/Catholic alliance that defines the contemporary Christian Right is, in any legitimate sense, a defender of “family values.”

Boz Tchividjian rattled the evangelical world in 2013, when he declared that the problem of child sex abuse in evangelicalism is “worse” than the problem in the Roman Catholic Church. The grandson of Billy Graham, a former child sex crimes prosecutor for the state of Florida, and now a law professor at Liberty University, Tchividjian has both the public profile to hold an audience, and the professional experience to back up his assertions.Tchividjian is not the only prominent evangelical speaking out. “Catholic and Baptist leaders have more similarities than differences on the child-abuse front,” wrote Robert Parnham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Both have harmed church members and the Christian witness by not swiftly addressing predatory clergy and designing reliable protective systems.”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which currently claims 15.9 million members in 46,000 churches in the U.S., has acknowledged the problem of child sex abuse within member churches. Still, too many Baptist leaders–like their Catholic counterparts–have responded to the problem with denials, inattention, and cover-ups. Indeed, Rev. Peter Lumpkins of Georgia called for the SBC’s governing body to adopt “a zero-tolerance policy toward the sexual abuse of children in churches,” but now thinks church officials are ignoring his 2013 resolution.

As just one example, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), SBC’s public policy arm, is holding an April “summit” in Nashville on “The Gospel and Human Sexuality.” Yet the program fails to include anything about child sex abuse. “From broken marriages to pornography to homosexuality, sexual confusion and sexual brokenness has ravaged our culture and can deteriorate the integrity of our churches,” the published program declares.  It assures prospective conferees that they can “discover” how their “church and local congregations can be a beacon of hope, clarity, and restoration as the gospel is brought to bear on human sexuality.”

Adding insult to injury, Rev. Greg Belser, a man who epitomizes the problem in the SBC, is not only a member of the ERLC’s “leadership council,” but also a panelist at the sex summit.  The Senior Pastor at Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi, Belser also happens to be at the center of a major, ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal.  In other words, the ERLC–the SBC body with delegated responsibility for addressing sex abuse within churches–features as a leader someone who himself is deeply entangled in a cover-up of abuse.

Christa Brown, a leading advocate for reform in the SBC, contemplated the wider issue last year by drawing upon a quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “True evil lies not in the depraved act of the one, but in the silence of the many.” Indeed, the “silence of the many” helped facilitate the criminal career of John Langworthy, a youth music minister at Belser’s Morrison Heights church and a serial child molester. When allegations surfaced that Langworthy may have molested at least one boy, leaders at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Texas (one of the largest in the SBC), including the Senior Pastor (and future SBC President) Jack Graham, took the allegations seriously enough to fire Langworthy in 1989. Yet they did not report him to the police, although state law at the time required it.

Amy Smith, an advocate with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), tried for more than two years to alert Morrison Heights Baptist Church leaders and Mississippi officials about Langworthy before Morrison Heights (the church where Langworthy had worked for two decades) finally conducted an internal investigation in 2011. Belser initially decided to keep Langworthy on staff but later allowed him to resign and to make a highly limited confession to the congregation about his “sexual indiscretions with younger males” in Texas–acts Langworthy described as “ungodly.” After Langworthy’s statement, Belser claimed that church officials had made “a biblical response” in the matter.

After Langworthy’s confession surfaced online, police launched an investigation.  As the Associated Baptist Press reported, “Six men came forward claiming they were sexually abused by Langworthy as children in the early 1980s.”  But Morrison Heights refused to turn over the findings of their internal investigation to police or prosecutors, apparently following the legal advice of Phillip Gunn, a Morrison Heights elder and a state representative.

That was in 2011.

Langworthy went on to plead guilty to five felonies committed against boys at two Mississippi Baptist churches prior to his time at Prestonwood and Morrison Heights. Thanks to a plea deal, he did no time. Meanwhile, Gunn was elected Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2012 (the first Republican since Reconstruction) and was also elected Trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Graham, who served two terms as President of the SBC in 2003 and 2004, remains the Senior Pastor at Prestonwood and is fending off questions about his role in the Langworthy affair. Belser remains Senior Pastor at Morrison Heights.

Christa Brown, writing at StopBaptistPredators, suggests that SBC leaders have not created mechanisms for disciplining those who “cover-up for the unspeakable crimes of their colleagues,” either because they are afraid or because they just don’t care. She also observes that there is no denominational process for assessing clergy abuse reports, keeping records of ministerial abuses, or providing a way to inform congregations about accused ministers.

“One of the best ways to protect children in the future,” Brown concludes, “is to hear the voices of those who are attempting to tell about abuse in the past. Those voices almost always carry ugly, hard truths – truths about not only the preacher-predators but also about the many others who turned a blind eye or who were complicit in covering up for clergy child molestations.”

The “silence of the many” certainly includes those who, while claiming to uphold “family values,” remain unusually quiet in the face of crimes against children.  Even more egregious is that such abuse is occurring in the care of the churches they claim best represent these values. The story of this silence may well be the one for which they are most remembered.


Man who thinks he’s Jesus… along with hundreds of young women who follow him across the world

  • Inri Cristo, 66, from Brasilia, Brazil, believes he is a reincarnation of the son of God
  • Cristo claims to have hundreds of followers, some who live at his ‘church’ compound
  • In 35 years, he has travelled to 27 countries, been arrested 40 times and expelled from Britain and the US

By Sara Malm

A 66-year-old Brazilian man has spent 35 years preaching the word of God – because he believes he is the reincarnation of Jesus.

Inri Cristo has ‘hundreds of followers’ from around the world, including the UK, Britain and France, some of whom live with him at his ‘church’ compound outside Brasilia.

Since 1979 he has travelled for 27 countries to spread his word, however his controversial views has seen him expelled from the US, Britain and Venezuela.

Scroll down for video

I am Jesus: Inri Cristo speaks to his disciples from one of his mobile pulpits at his church compound outside the capital of Brasilia

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I am Jesus: Inri Cristo speaks to his disciples from one of his mobile pulpits at his church compound outside the capital of Brasilia

They see me rollin', they hatin': When not giving sermons and tending to his flock at his Soust church, Inri Cristo likes to get around the grounds of his compound aboard his motor scooter

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They see me rollin’, they hatin’: When not giving sermons and tending to his flock at his Soust church, Inri Cristo likes to get around the grounds of his compound aboard his motor scooter

 

Son of god: Inri - which is a Latin acronym  that in English means 'Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews', believes that the location of his 'church' is the 'New Jerusalem'

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Son of god: Inri – which is a Latin acronym  that in English means ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’, believes that the location of his ‘church’ is the ‘New Jerusalem’

 

 

Most of the disciples who live at his church – mostly women – have followed Inri for decades, the eldest, Abevere, 86, has been following him for 32 years.

His youngest disciple is now 24 years old and first met Inri when she was just a two years old.

As ‘Jesus reborn’ he has even taken the name of Inri, which derives from the latin acronym said to have been written on the cross during Jesus’ crucifixion, and stands for Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, or in English: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews’ and Cristo, meaning Christ.

His Jesus-like dressing and unorthodox views on capitalism, abortion and even Christmas has seen him detained by police more than 40 times.

 

Inri Cristo’s disciples sing version of “FREEDOM RELEASE’

              

Faithful followers: A group of Inri Cristo's devoted disciples who live at the Soust compound gather to greet 'Jesus' in Brasilia, Brazil. Most of the disciples who live there have known Inri for over 20 years; the oldest now 86, and the youngest 24

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Faithful followers: A group of Inri Cristo’s devoted disciples who live at the Soust compound gather to greet ‘Jesus’ in Brasilia, Brazil. Most of the disciples who live there have known Inri for over 20 years; the oldest now 86, and the youngest 24

Leader's greetings: Despite being the home of Jesus, and home of a religious organisation, Inri Christo still has a kennel of dogs to protect them

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Leader’s greetings: Despite being the home of Jesus, and home of a religious organisation, Inri Christo still has a kennel of dogs to protect them

 

Uniform uniform: Inri Christo's female disciples wear simple blue gowns with the compound's logo on, tied with a rope, and knitted hats

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Uniform uniform: Inri Christo’s female disciples wear simple blue gowns with the compound’s logo on, tied with a rope, and knitted hats

 

 

He said: ‘I know that there are countless people scattered throughout Brazil and the world whose hearts beat together with mine.’

But despite seeing himself as Jesus reborn, Inri refuses to celebrate Christmas saying it is just a day where ‘the rich humiliate the poor’.

‘It is a day when the little sons of the rich can show the gifts they received while the poor children only get a crumb,’ he said. ‘So it is a very sad day for anyone who sees things with the eyes that I see.’

Inri says he first experienced the ‘revelation’ that he was Christ during a religious fast in Santiago, Chile, in 1979.

Since childhood he had been following a powerful voice that ‘speaks in his head’ but it was only on this occasion that it told him: ‘I am your Father. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’

His holy word: Cristo speaks to his followers every Saturday morning from his pulpit at the 'New Jerusalem' compound

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His holy word: Cristo speaks to his followers every Saturday morning from his pulpit at the ‘New Jerusalem’ compound

Long career: Inri Cristo, who has been preaching as 'Jesus' since 1979, surrounded by followers circa 1982 at Belem cathedral in Lisbon, Portugal

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Long career: Inri Cristo, who has been preaching as ‘Jesus’ since 1979, surrounded by followers circa 1982 at Belem cathedral in Lisbon, Portugal

 

On display: Artifacts from the life of Inri Cristo are kept in glass cabinets at his chapel at the Soust compound near Brasilia

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On display: Artifacts from the life of Inri Cristo are kept in glass cabinets at his chapel at the Soust compound near Brasilia

He's alive! Inri Cristo in a photo of himself wearing his own version of the Shroud of Turin, circa 1993, set to prove that he is the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself

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He’s alive! Inri Cristo in a photo of himself wearing his own version of the Shroud of Turin, circa 1993, set to prove that he is the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself

Uncomfortable truths? Inri Christo's controversial views on everything from Christmas to capitalism has seen him arrested 40 times, and expelled from several countries

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Uncomfortable truths? Inri Christo’s controversial views on everything from Christmas to capitalism has seen him arrested 40 times, and expelled from several countries

 

 

 

 

He now runs his own church, the ‘Soust’ (Suprema Ordem Universal da Santmssima Trindade), located on a lush farmland outside of Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, which he calls the ‘New Jerusalem’.

He and his followers survive on homegrown fruit like bananas, avocados and mangos as well as a vegetable garden.

There’s also a chapel where Ingra speaks to his followers every Saturday morning and a kennel for the dogs that guard the complex.

His quirky life has led to critics saying he is mentally ill – an accusation he firmly denies.

‘I can be crazy but not dumb,’ he said.

‘Madness is different from dementia. It is the mother of philosophers, prophets and inventors.

‘My mission is to prepare the elect, the survivors of the inevitable nuclear hecatomb that will culminate in the end of this chaotic world, for the formation of the new earthly society, which will strive to fulfill the Creator’s will.’

Preacher and leader: Inri Christo's loyal followers push his pulpit out into the garden in order to listen to his words as 'Jesus'

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Preacher and leader: Inri Christo’s loyal followers push his pulpit out into the garden in order to listen to his words as ‘Jesus’

 

Biker Jesus: Inri Christo takes his scooter for a spin around his vast compound where he lives with his followers, preaching 'the word of Jesus'

Biker Jesus: Inri Christo takes his scooter for a spin around his vast compound where he lives with his followers, preaching ‘the word of Jesus’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2535168/Man-thinks-hes-Jesus-hundreds-young-women-follow-world.html#ixzz2rwD5QLCT Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


Atheist brochure

Kiss me, I’m an atheist

by  Matthew Hutson@SilverJacket
Nonbelievers need a new PR campaign, one that emphasizes their civic engagement
Brochures and bumper stickers at the LA chapter of the Sunday Assembly, which calls itself a “godless congregation.”
Jae C. Hong/AP

In Pope Francis’ Christmas address, he extended a surprise olive branch to atheists. But the reach was backhanded. “I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he offered. Even nonbelievers? How magnanimous.

Religious tolerance has increased dramatically over the last few decades, at least in the United States. But one group remains behind the pack: atheists. A 2012 Gallup poll asked Americans if they would vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate nominated by their party if the person happened to be “X.” Catholic? Ninety-four percent said yes. Jewish? Ninety-one percent. Mormon? Eighty percent. Muslim? Fifty-eight percent. Trailing them all — and well behind blacks, women, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians — were atheists, at 54 percent.

Dislike of atheists might be surprising, given that we are a small and largely invisible demographic, making up less than 5 percent of the U.S. We are not known for terrorist attacks, secret cabals or any particular pageantry — we are not even a particularly cohesive group. As the comedian Ricky Gervais once wrote, “Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby.” But recent research has identified the primary source of prejudice against atheists: It is the distrust of those who are not scared of a watchful God. And the research suggests that current attempts to give atheists a PR makeover are severely misguided.

The source of prejudice

A 2006 paper by the sociologist Penny Edgell and her colleagues began to outline the nature of the anti-atheist bias. They found that people associate atheists with either the low end of the social hierarchy (common criminals) or the high end (cultural elitists). What these two groups purportedly share is extreme self-interest and lack of concern for the common good.

A couple of years later, the economists Jonathan Tan and Claudia Vogel published a paper supporting the notion that dislike of atheists is based at least partly on distrust. They found that, in an investment game, players handed less money to partners they thought were less religious. (The English philosopher John Locke gave voice to such behavior in 1689 when he wrote that “those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God.” The title of the book, “A Letter Concerning Toleration,” was not ironic by design.)

But why such suspicion? Two psychologists, Will Gervais of the University of Kentucky and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia, hypothesize that people see atheists as not fearing punishment from a monitoring deity. And in the last few years they have demonstrated this belief to be the core of anti-atheist bias.

The logic makes sense: People are better behaved when they feel watched by others, or even by a photo of eyes. We also conceive of God as a personlike entity, someone who cares about our behavior. Gervais and Norenzayan have shown that cuing religious people with thoughts of God makes them more self-conscious, and numerous experiments have shown that priming believers with notions of supernatural beings makes them more honest and charitable. It is as if he is watching.

In one of their experiments (conducted with Azim Shariff, a psychologist at the University of Oregon), subjects read about a man who bumped a van while parking and did not leave a note, then stole money from a found wallet. They found this untrustworthy character to be more representative of an atheist than a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew or a feminist — which indicates that distrust of atheists is not just a matter of seeing them as outsiders. In fact, subjects were just as inclined to assume the character was an atheist as they were to think he was a rapist.

American Atheists has created billboards that read ‘Reason > prayer,’ but messages like these only increase distrust of atheists.

In their most telling experiment, subjects rated their own religiosity, evaluated the trustworthiness of atheists and rated the degree to which “people behave better when they feel that God is monitoring their behavior.” Agreement with this statement fully accounted for the connection between religiosity and distrust of atheists. In other words, if you believe in God, you think fear of God’s wrath is what keeps people in line, and this belief causes you to be wary of atheists.

Nothing to fear

How fair is this distrust of atheists? If reminders of religion prompt believers to be better behaved, are they generally more moral than atheists? Some evidence suggests that religious people are more generous than nonreligious people — but only in nonindustrialized societies, or when prompted to think about God. In one recent study, those who regularly attended Sunday religious services were more likely to respond to a request for charity than those who attended them irregularly or attended no services, but only if the request came on a Sunday. Strong evidence for goodness without God comes from Denmark and Sweden, according to the sociologist Phil Zuckerman. One in four Danes does not believe in a god, spirit or life force, and neither does one in three Swedes. These are two of the world’s least religious countries (PDF), yet they also have two of the world’s lowest homicide rates. Even if there were a small difference in the trustworthiness of atheists, are we really comparable to rapists?

Empathy does not require belief in God. Atheists feel just as much pain seeing the misery of others; it comes from a simple mammalian mechanism. A conscience does not rely on superstition either. We all like to do things that make us feel we are good people, even if it is simply to convince others that we are good.

What is more, God is not the only entity that can watch you and punish misdeeds. There is also the state. Shariff and Norenzayan found in a study that presenting people with words recalling secular sources of authority — “civic,” “jury,” “court,” “police,” “contract” — increased prosocial behavior almost as much as religious reminders did.

The fact that the government’s presence keeps people in line suggests one way to reduce distrust of atheists: Remind people that atheists are not in fact free to do as they please. Gervais and Norenzayan found that showing believers a video on the effectiveness of the Vancouver police department decreased their distrust of nonbelievers.

Taking these results from the lab to the real world, Norenzayan and Gervais report in an upcoming paper that wariness of nonbelievers is reduced in countries with a strong rule of law. Looking at data from dozens of countries, they found that where contracts, property rights, the police and the courts were formidable, religious citizens were less likely to agree that “people who do not believe in God are unfit for public office.”

One wonders, then, if the spreading purview of the state, with its panopticon-style wiretapping, drones, surveillance cameras and Internet snooping, will increase good behavior, as the philosopher Peter Singer and others have argued. And if so, perhaps it will also boost trust of atheists. Norenzayan, in his book “Big Gods,” argues that fear of disciplinary deities enabled humans to trust each other enough for civilization to gain a foothold, but that with big government to regulate human affairs, big gods are no longer necessary to hold strangers together. “You don’t have to lean on religion anymore to decide whom to trust,” he told me, “if you think there are other reasons people can be trusted.”

If such surveillance still does not help boost the reputation of atheists, what might a brand manager do for the godless? Let us look at what has been done. The British Humanist Association has run bus ads that say “There’s probably no God.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a billboard that says, “I am free from the slavery of religion.” And American Atheists has created billboards that read “Reason > prayer.” But these messages only increase distrust of atheists. Most people do not see reason as the root of virtue. Loyalty and generosity are not typically understood as the output of calculations but as the abandonment of them. And attacking another’s faith does not open lines of communication. Norenzayan added, “Instead of the angry, confrontational kind of atheism that gets all the attention, how about a kinder, gentler, funnier atheism?”

A successful campaign might paint pictures of atheists doing good in the world. Clips of John Lennon singing “Imagine,” Daniel Radcliffe reading “Harry Potter” to kids, Angelina Jolie saving Africa one baby at a time. They do not even have to be celebrities or saints (or Swedes) — just, as Will Gervais suggested, standup citizens who take out their garbage and pay their taxes, like anyone else. Norenzayan also recommended that more nonreligious people come out of the closet: “I think positive social contact in general helps a lot,” he said. “It has done wonders in reducing other prejudices.”

In modern society, there is no reason not to trust atheists. So to do my part in a world where religious intolerance plays a role in so many conflicts, I invite you all to join me in desiring tolerance and peace. Yes, even you Catholics.

Matthew Hutson is a science writer and the author of “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking,” about the psychology of superstition and religion.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.


Atheist Super Bowl Ad Sparks Controversy | News OK.


The loonies are on the rampage … again!

ILLuMiNuTTi.com

By The Locke via The Soap Box

Reblogged from Is that a FEMA Camp?

Recently the old FEMA camp myth has once again reared it’s ugly head around internet, this time making it appear that President Obama has ordered $1,000,000,000 worth of “disposable coffins”, as you can clearly see from this screen shot below:

FEMA coffin

And from this article here.

When I was reading the article one of the first things that clued me in that this was just a bunch of BS and anti-government fear mongering were the pictures.

All of these pictures have been spreading around the internet for years now in various conspiracy theorist websites and forums.

Despite what the website wants you to believe, these pictures are actually pretty old. Infact they’ve been around since the George W. Bush administration, as have these claims.

The pictures were also taken at a storage facility for Vantage

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