Machine Gun Mary Spills Her Guts on Oprah

Mary Winkler Calls Murder of Her Minister Husband 'Tragic Event'

from Fox News

CHICAGO — The mother who confessed to killing her minister husband with a shotgun spoke out for the first time on national television Wednesday, calling the murder a "tragic event" and expressing a longing to see her three young daughters again.

Mary Winkler, 33, accepted an invitation from Oprah Winfrey to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to talk about her crumbling marriage and the events leading up to her husband's death.

After an argument with her husband, Matthew Winkler, on March 22, 2006, Mary took the shotgun from their bedroom closet and fired.

"When I heard the boom, I just thought that it would have hit the ceiling, the window, and I just thought 'Oh my goodness, he's going to think that I meant to do that on purpose,' and so I took off. I just took off running," Mary Winkler said in a taped interview. "Then at some point, I just realized he wasn’t chasing me and I just had to go back in and face the realization."

Mary Winkler said her husband was upset after their baby girl woke them up crying from her crib in their Selmer, Tenn., home.

Matthew Winkler put his hand over the baby's mouth and nose to quiet her, she said. After Mary Winkler took the baby from him, he returned the bedroom. Mary then put the baby back to bed and went to the bedroom to talk to her husband.

After shooting her husband, Mary Winkler put their three daughters in the family minivan and fled. She was later arrested hundreds of miles away in Alabama after an Amber Alert was issued.

Mary Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served five months in jail with two months in a mental-health treatment facility.

"I do love him. I think of the good times," Mary Winkler said. "He's my girls' daddy. I just, love Matthew. It was very bad but it could be very good."

A judge denied Mary Winkler permission to travel to Chicago to talk with Winfrey in person. A taped portion previously recorded was broadcast instead.

"I was just so afraid," Mary Winkler said. "At that point, I felt like my life was in danger."

Winkler's trial showcased evidence of an abusive marriage, including what Mary Winkler called "unnatural sex acts" complete with white platform shoes and a wig to comply with her husband's desires.

The couple had discussed getting a divorce, she said.

Winkler, now wrapped up in a custody fight to see her daughters, said she hopes to see them again.

Winkler's former in-laws, Dan and Diane Winkler, have custody of the girls — ages 2, 8 and 10 — and want to terminate her parental rights and adopt their granddaughters.

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Jesus Drives a Jaguar?

Ex-Priest Pleads Guilty to Stealing Thousands From Church

from Fox News

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A former priest pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from his church by setting up secret bank accounts to pay for a life of luxury, including traveling around the world and buying a condominium.

The Rev. Michael Jude Fay, who resigned last year as pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church, pleaded guilty Wednesday to interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud. He faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and must pay restitution.

Prosecutors said Fay took between $1 million and $2.5 million over seven years, but the priest has disputed that. He admitted taking between $400,000 and $1 million.

Fay shopped at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, drove a Jaguar, attended a sports club, bought jewelry from Cartier, spent $130,000 for limo rides for himself and his mother, and stayed at hotels such as the Ritz Carlton, Hotel De Paris and the Four Seasons, according to an investigative report released last year by the Bridgeport Diocese. He spent tens of thousands of dollars on home furnishings and meals and more than $20,000 to mark the 25th anniversary of his ordination, the report said.

He also bought a condominium in Florida with another man. Federal investigators said Fay also spent money to buy a condominium in Philadelphia.

Fay and his attorney, Lawrence Hopkins, declined to comment outside court. In the hearing, Fay said he had undergone chemotherapy for prostate cancer but the treatment was not working.

He was released on a $50,000 bond; sentencing is set for Dec. 4.

Fay remains unauthorized to function as a priest, church officials said. The parish has received restitution in the form of cash, real estate, and personal property worth about a few hundred thousand dollars, church officials said.

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Daycare of the Gods:
Limbo - The Myth About To End

Life After Limbo

from Time

Forget about the cute headlines proclaiming that limbo is in limbo. In fact, limbo, the incomplete afterlife postulated by the Roman Catholic Church for infants who die before being baptized, is on the skids. After a commission of top Catholic theologians wrapped up a December conference that examined the topic, the prognosis was apparently grim: the group's secretary-general told Vatican Radio that the church's teaching on limbo was "in crisis."

Beyond being
headline news (how often does a major faith admit to retooling its take on the afterlife?), the shift, telegraphed in the 1994 Catechism, should strike most believers as a very good thing. For centuries, Catholic couples lived in fear that in the tragic event that their newborns perished, the infants would go not to heaven but to a cheery yet inaccessible outer parking lot, a locale where they would enjoy eternal happiness but be denied the actual presence of God (and, presumably, of the parents, assuming they reached heaven).

That scheme had come to seem impossibly harsh. Says the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the Jesuit publication America who has performed many baptisms: "My idea of God is not a God who would condemn a baby to an imperfect life for eternity." Many priests have downplayed limbo out of similar concerns, and Martin lauds the Vatican panel for "bringing theological development in line with pastoral application."

Shutting down limbo also aligns nicely with the church's activism on abortion. On last week's Feast of the Holy Innocents - honoring children murdered by the evil King Herod - Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the embryo is a "full and complete" human being, despite being "shapeless." If you are going to call a fetus' termination murder, then it seems somehow inconsistent to deny heaven to the blameless, full and complete victim.

In the finely balanced theological universe, however, it's hard to give in one area without taking away elsewhere. In this case, the loser is baptism - or at least the rite's broadest, bluntest definition. Limbo was conceived in the Middle Ages to solve a problem relating to original sin, the inherited stain of Adam and Eve's disobedience. Jesus' death on the Cross is understood to have relieved humanity of the burden of that sin, an immunity Catholicism still considers activated for each human as he or she unites with Christ in baptism.

The question arose, What about babies who died before they were baptized? The church father Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), applying more logic than compassion, said that without baptismal grace, they must go to hell. That proved too much for the theologians of the Middle Ages, who counterproposed limbo. The Protestant reformers eliminated it from their theology along with several other postdeath constructs, but it remained a looming staple of Catholic understanding. Says Martin: "I've rarely baptized a baby where [limbo] has not come up, at least as a joke."

Those nervous jests may now end. The original head of the theological commission that met in December was none other than Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had written years earlier that limbo was not actually church doctrine but only a "theological hypothesis." Elsewhere he called it "problematic." As Pope Benedict XVI, he will probably approve a document recognizing unbaptized babies' full entrée into heaven.

Yet in the absence of limbo, some theologians have noticed, the rite of baptism may not seem as imperative to many Catholics as it once appeared. Despite its continued centrality as the sacramental entry to the body of Christ, some of its ASAP urgency will presumably fade. Indeed, the expected limbo ruling comes in addition to an older decision that appeared to downgrade baptism's gatekeeping role. The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65 ruled that in the case of some adult seekers of God - even non-Christians - the desire for the divine could take the place of the rite. Or, as the author of the 2002 book God and the World noted, "men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation." The writer was, again, Ratzinger.

Together, these developments invite an investigation of baptism's importance beyond simply preventing the worst, and make a statement about the liberality of grace. Both the commission's work, which speaks for unbaptized infants, and the Vatican II language, which speaks for unbaptized adults, remind believers that, as Ratzinger wrote in a paraphrase of his predecessor John Paul II, Christians may hope that "God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament." Limbo was a vestige of an overfastidious exclusivity. Eliminating it affords a better view of God's many mansions, their doors wider than some of his followers have historically admitted.

A Christian Who Can't Tell Fiction from Reality?

That's Just Redundant

Man Accused of Trying to Exorcise Devil From Days of Our Lives Star Pleads No Contest

from The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — I'm not the devil. I just play one on TV. Dipshit.A man accused of trying to exorcise the devil from a Days of Our Lives star after bursting into his Malibu backyard pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and entering private property without permission.

In addition, a judge granted a restraining order sought by actor Drake Hogestyn against Carl Raymond Cheney of Oregon, who entered his plea Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Hogestyn, who plays John Black on the popular NBC soap, said in his request for the order that he was on a ladder on New Year's Eve when Cheney ran at his daughter screaming, "'Where is he? I will cast him out.'"

Cheney clutched a Bible while recalling an episode of the soap about demonic possession, the documents state, adding that the intruder also grabbed Hogestyn's wife and pushed her backward.

Hogestyn said he jumped from a ladder and intercepted the intruder.

"I grabbed him by the hair, spun him around, delivered a right cross to the chin that sent him down the stairs," the actor said.

"This sick person Carl Raymond Cheney believed that Satan was in me and that he was the Christ," he wrote.

Hogestyn and his son restrained the man with duct tape until police arrived and arrested him.

After entering his plea, Cheney was released on his own recognizance and ordered to stay with his father. He was also ordered to undergo psychological counseling and take his prescribed medications.

He is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 6.


'80s Rocker Bob Seger Appears in Tree!

Residents See Face Of Jesus In Tree Trunk

from WJXT

FLORIDA - Blessed is the dog who pees on me.Man-made religious decorations are a common sight at this time of year, but the image on a tree in an Arlington man's front yard is natural and some neighbors have begun calling it a holy tree, according to a WJXT-TV report.

Neighbors near Daryl Brown's Arlington home said a tree in his yard bears the image of Jesus. The likeness has created a buzz in the neighborhood and has many residents at a loss for words.

"I see the face, eyes, and you can see the crown," said one neighbor.

"I can't say what I feel, I just feel it," said another neighbor.

The image was discovered a week before Christmas by a woman walking her dog, the report said. Overjoyed by what she saw, the woman shared the news with her neighbor.

"Nancy said, Just take those old records off the shelf!'Would you like to see something? Just make sure you see it. I don't want to have to show it to you first," Brown said.

Brown recently moved to Arlington from Texas. He said the tree has given him and his family comfort as a symbol that everything is going to be OK in their new home.

"It's a blessing for me just coming to town, getting introduced and meeting new people out here...When she showed me that, I said, 'OK, there is a Jesus.'" Brown said.

Similar to other cases of similar sightings, there will be skeptics. However, Brown said no skeptic could convince him the image is anything but Jesus Christ.

"Jesus don't just pop up like that. If you know the word of Jesus and you believe in Jesus, then there you go. He does exist," Brown said.


Pat Robertson Still Hearing Voices

Religious Broadcaster Pat Robertson Predicts Horrific Terrorist Attack on U.S. in 2007

from The Associated Press

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia — Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday a horrific terrorist act on the United States that will result in "mass killing" late in 2007.

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear," he said during his news-and-talk television show The 700 Club on the Christian Broadcasting Network. "The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September.

"I put these things out with humility," he said.

Robertson said God also told him that the U.S. only feigns friendship with Israel and that U.S. policies are pushing Israel toward "national suicide."

Robertson suggested in January 2006 that God punished then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon with a stroke for ceding Israeli-controlled land to the Palestinians.

Predicting events for the coming year is an annual tradition for Robertson.

He predicted in January 2004 that President George W. Bush would easily win re-election. Bush won 51 percent of the vote that fall, beating Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

In 2005, Robertson predicted that Bush would have victory after victory in his second term. He said Social Security reform proposals would be approved and Bush would nominate conservative judges to federal courts.

Lawmakers confirmed Bush's 2005 nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. But the president's Social Security initiative was stalled by widespread opposition.

"I have a relatively good track record," he said. "Sometimes I miss."

In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America's coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring's heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.


Why Not Just Burn the Christians, Dumbass?!

California Man Sets Himself, American Flag, Christmas Tree on Fire to Protest Religious Names

from The Associated Press

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A man used flammable liquid to light himself on fire, apparently to protest a San Joaquin Valley school district's decision to change the names of winter and spring breaks to Christmas and Easter vacation.

The man, who was not immediately identified, on Friday also set fire to a Christmas tree, an American flag and a revolutionary flag replica, said Fire Captain Garth Milam.

Seeing the flames, Sheriff's Deputy Lance Ferguson grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran to the man.

Flames were devouring a Christmas tree next to the Liberty Bell, where public events and demonstrations are common.

Beside the tree the man stood with an American flag draped around his shoulders and a red gas can over his head.

Seeing the deputy, the man poured the liquid over his head. He quickly burst into flames when the fumes from the gas met the flames from the tree.

The deputy ordered the man to drop to the ground as he and a parole agent sprayed him with fire extinguishers.

"The man stood there like this," the deputy said with his arms across his chest and his head bent down, "Saying no, no, no."

The man suffered first degree burns on his shoulders and arms, Milam said.

Kern County Sheriff's Deputy John Leyendecker said the man had a sign that read: "Fuck the religious establishment and KHSD."

On Thursday, the Kern High School Board of Trustees voted to use the names Christmas and Easter instead of winter and spring breaks.


Buddha-2: Slippery L'il Mutherfucker!

'Buddha' Boy Meditating at New Venue

from Phayul

Kantipur BARA, Dec 27 - "Buddha" boy, Ram Bahadur Bomjan, who was found on Monday after disappearing for 10 months, resumed meditation at a new site at Halkhorea pond, Tuesday.

Bomjan reached the area, some eight kilometers away from Baghjhor - where he was discovered by a group of hunters on Monday night - after covering the distance on foot for three hours.

As per his "new announcement" on Monday, he started meditating under the historic five hundred-year-old tree near the pond.

"He's now begun meditating in the same posture like in the past," informed chairman of Namo Buddha Committee Bed Bahadur Lama.

Following these developments, locals have been continuing to turn up in huge numbers for a glimpse of the meditating teenager.


Popes Crack! Me! Update:
New & Improved Edition

Now with 30% Less Drooling!

(P.S.: The picture is the link.)


(Shhshh! Here He Comes!)

Vatican Employees Unable To Relax at Holiday Party with Pope Around

from The Onion

VATICAN CITY - According to various cardinals and nuns attending the Vatican's holiday party last night, festivities were made awkward by the unexpected appearance of Pope Benedict XVI.

"[Prefect Emeritus] Bernardin [Gantin] was about to bust out his St. Bridget impression, which is just spot on, but then the pope walked over and we quickly changed the subject to the sacred presence of the Holy Spirit during transubstantiation," said a cardinal speaking on the condition of anonymity, adding that Pope Benedict's "way too formal" attire made everyone feel even more ill at ease. "He said he didn't want to talk about work, but guess who was the first one to make a segue from our favorite local restaurants to the Bangorian Controversy with the Church Of England?"

Several Vatican employees recalled "the good old days" when Pope John Paul II turned a blind eye to their attempts to get the secretaries drunk playing "Never Have I Ever."


Q: How Many Pollocks Does It Take To Open a Baptist Church?
A: God Willing, Just One

Christians Terrorize Polish Kid

from Wonkette

Michael Gromek, 19, is from Poland, a nation known world over for its godless hedonism and atheistic college students. So when Michael came to visit the US, the Good Lord placed him in the noble hands of a God-fearing Evangelical Christian couple in North Carolina, our second-holiest state.

Gromek, though, was not particularly grateful. So he bitched to Der Spiegel, favorite newspaper of German Marxists.
Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.

Gromek's host family also forced him to attend church each Sunday at horrifically early hours, and forbid him coffee when he complained. They told him his mother was possessed by the devil, and fed him "lollipops."
They wanted me to help them set up a Fundamentalist Baptist church in my home country of Poland. It was God's will, they said. They tried to slip the topic casually into conversation, but it really shocked me — I realized that was the only reason they had welcomed me into their family. They had already started construction work in Krakow — I was to help them with translations and with spreading their faith via the media.

Michael refused, and, sadly, remains unsaved to this day. As soon as he got back to Poland, all he did was bitch to a newspaper about how backwards and crazy us Americans are.

Here's to you, whiny Polish kid! We'll get ya next time.
...and your little dog, too!


Satan: Prince of Peace?
Peace: Divisive & Offensive?

Yes & Yes...in Colorado

Peace on Earth? Not in Our Subdivision!

from The Associated Press

DENVER, Colorado - A homeowners' association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.

Some residents who have complained have children serving in Iraq, said Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs.

He said some residents believed the wreath was a symbol of Satan. Three or four residents complained, he said.

"Somebody could put up signs that say drop bombs on Iraq. If you let one go up you have to let them all go up," he said in a telephone interview Sunday.

Lisa Jensen said she wasn't thinking of the war when she hung the wreath. She said, "Peace is way bigger than not being at war. This is a spiritual thing."

Jensen, a past association president, calculates the fines will cost her about $1,000, and doubts they will be able to make her pay. But she said she's not going to take it down until after Christmas.

"Now that it has come to this I feel I can't get bullied," she said. "What if they don't like my Santa Claus?"

The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver has sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and the board "will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive."

The subdivision's rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.

Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn't say anything.

Kearns fired all five committee members.


Reg Strikes Back

Elton John: 'I Would Ban Religion Completely'

from The Associated Press

LONDON, England - Organized religion fuels anti-gay discrimination and other forms of bias, pop star Elton John said in an interview published Saturday.

"I think religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people," John said in the Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine. "Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays."

"But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion," he said. "From my point of view, I would ban religion completely. Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."

John also criticized religious leaders for failing to do anything about conflicts around the world.

"Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together?"

John said those in his own field have been similarly lax.

"It's like the peace movement in the '60s. Musicians got through to people by getting out there and doing peace concerts, but we don't seem to do them any more," he said. "If John Lennon were alive today, he'd be leading it with a vengeance."


Show Me Where the Bad Man Touched You

Evangelical Haggard Claims He Was Molested By Republican Congressman

from The Onion

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — Evangelical leader Ted Haggard, who stepped down last week after confessing that he purchased methamphetamines and various services from a male prostitute, revealed Wednesday that he was repeatedly molested by an unnamed Republican congressman in the late 1990s.

"We would communicate on the Internet and then meet in his Washington office to, I thought, discuss faith-based initiatives," said Haggard in a tearful admission in which he asked for the forgiveness of God and his congregation. "Before long, he had progressed from praying alongside me to having me sit on his lap at his desk, and then to touching me in my bathing-suit area. I trusted the congressman, and he violated that trust."

Authorities have not acted on Haggard's allegations, saying that Republicans are often accused of wrongdoings simply because so many of them lead secret gay or criminal lifestyles.

Students Ban Pledge Over 'Under God' As Christians Equate Being Nonchristian with Being Unamerican

Students Ban Pledge of Allegiance

from Newsmax

Student leaders at a California college have touched off a furor by banning the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings, saying they see no reason to publicly swear loyalty to God and the U.S. government.

The move by Orange Coast College student trustees, the latest clash over patriotism and religion in American schools, has infuriated some of their classmates - prompting one young woman to loudly recite the pledge in front of the board Wednesday night in defiance of the rule.

"America is the one thing I'm passionate about and I can't let them take that away from me," 18-year-old political science major Christine Zoldos told Reuters.

"The fact that they have enough power to ban one of the most valued traditions in America is just horrible," Zoldos said, adding she would attend every board meeting to salute the flag.

The move was lead by three recently elected student trustees, who ran for office wearing revolutionary-style berets and said they do not believe in publicly swearing an oath to the American flag and government at their school. One student trustee voted against the measure, which does not apply to other student groups or campus meetings.

The ban follows a 2002 ruling by a federal appeals court in San Francisco that said forcing school children to recite the pledge was unconstitutional because of the phrase "under God." The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the ruling on procedural grounds but left the door open for another challenge.

"That ('under God') part is sort of offensive to me," student trustee Jason Bell, who proposed the ban, told Reuters. "I am an atheist and a socialist, and if you know your history, you know that 'under God' was inserted during the McCarthy era and was directly designed to destroy my ideology."

Bell said the ban largely came about because the trustees didn't want to publicly vow loyalty to the American government before their meetings. "Loyalty ought to be something the government earns through performance, not through reciting a pledge," he said.

Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the Coast Community College District, said her office had no standing on the student board and took no position on the flag salute ban.

"If their personal belief is that they don't want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the district certainly isn't going to dictate what they do," she said.
More than 28,000 students attend the community college, located in conservative Orange County, California, south of Los Angeles.


'Jesus Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiisssd'oh!'

Miracle Seeker Falls Off Jesus Statue

from Metro UK

A man who climbed a 45-foot tall statue of Jesus to pray for a miracle cure saw his plan backfire slightly, when he fell off, breaking several bones.

Farmer Alipio Acosta climbed up the statue of Jesus in Ocaca, Columbia in front of a crowd of onlookers – and TV cameras – in an attempt to be cured of his epilepsy. Once at the top of the statue, he prayed for a few moments, then started to climb back down.

Unfortunately, he hadn't planned his descent route terribly well. To add to the problems, it had been raining, which made Jesus quite slippery.

As he tried to negotiate his way around Jesus' outstretched arm, Acosta dangled for a moment, before losing his grip, falling, bouncing off the plinth and then falling some more.

More religion-related offbeat news on the plus side, he survived. Which is a miracle of sorts.

He was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with multiple fractures to his wrist, hip and skull.

This is not the first time Acosta has climbed up the Cristo Ray statue – he did the same thing two years ago. On that occasion, he wasn't cured of his epilepsy, but he didn't fall 45 feet either, making the venture a sort of 0 – 0 win.


The Power of Babble:
Speaking in Tongues = Getting Stupid

Scientists Study 'Speaking in Tongues'

from United Press International

PHILADELPHIA - U.S. scientists, in a first-of-its-kind study, have found decreased brain activity in people "speaking in tongues," a condition known as glossolalia.

The unusual mental state is associated with some religious traditions and occurs when people appear to be speaking in an incomprehensible language, yet perceive it to have great personal meaning.

Medical scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine measured regional cerebral blood flow with single photon emission computed tomography while the subjects were speaking in tongues.

"We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain," said the principal investigator, Dr. Andrew Newberg, an associate professor of radiology, psychiatry, and religious studies. "Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak.

"Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues."

The research appears in the November issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

Who Would Jesus Blow?

Key Evangelical Quits Amid Gay Sex Claim

from The Associated Press

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an outspoken opponent of gay marriage, has given up his post while a church panel investigates allegations he paid a man for sex.

The Rev. Ted Haggard resigned as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday after being accused of paying the man for monthly trysts over the past three years.

Haggard, a married father of five, denied the allegations, but also stepped aside as head of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending an investigation.

"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said in a statement. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."

Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor's niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.

The acting senior pastor at New Life, Ross Parsley, told KKTV-TV of Colorado Springs that Haggard admitted that some of the accusations were true.

"I just know that there has been some admission of indiscretion, not admission to all of the material that has been discussed but there is an admission of some guilt," Parsley told the station.

He did not elaborate, and a telephone number for Parsley could not be found late Thursday.

The allegations come as voters in Colorado and seven other states get ready to decide Tuesday on amendments banning gay marriage. Besides the proposed ban on the Colorado ballot, a separate measure would establish the legality of domestic partnerships providing same-sex couples with many of the rights of married couples.

The allegations stunned church members.

"It's political, right before the elections," said Brian Boals, a New Life member for 17 years.

Church member E.J. Cox, 25, called the claims "ridiculous."

"People are always saying stuff about Pastor Ted," she said. "You just sort of blow it off. He's just like anyone else in the public eye."

The accusations were made by Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, who said he decided to go public because of the political fight over the amendments.

"I just want people to step back and take a look and say, 'Look, we're all sinners, we all have faults, but if two people want to get married, just let them, and let them have a happy life,'" said Jones, who added that he isn't working for any political group.

Jones, who said he is gay, said he was also upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.

"It made me angry that here's someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex," he said.

Jones claimed Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month over three years. He said he advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and was contacted by a man who called himself Art, who snorted methamphetamine before their sexual encounters to heighten his experience.

Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Haggard and that the two last had sex in August.

He said he has voice mail messages from Haggard, as well as an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash. He declined to make the voice mails available to the AP, but KUSA-TV reported what it said were excerpts late Thursday that referred to methamphetamine.

"Hi Mike, this is Art," one call began, according to the station. "Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply."

A second message, left a few hours later, began: "Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I'll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever."

Haggard, 50, was appointed president of the evangelicals association in March 2003. He has participated in conservative Christian leaders' conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied members of Congress last year on U.S. Supreme Court appointees after Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement.

After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, Haggard and others began organizing state-by-state opposition. Last year, Haggard and officials from the nearby Christian ministry Focus on the Family announced plans to push Colorado's gay marriage ban for the 2006 ballot.

At the time, Haggard said that he believed marriage is a union between a man and woman rooted in centuries of tradition, and that research shows it's the best family unit for children.


God: Inhuman Shapeshifting Impotent Hermaphroditic Half-Myth?

Poll: Nearly Half of Americans Uncertain God Exists

from AFP

Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll released on Tuesday that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events.

The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of U.S. adults are not "absolutely certain" there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

Among the various religious groups, 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews said they are "absolutely certain" there is a God while 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as "Born Again" feel certain God exists.

When questioned on whether God is male or female, 36 percent of respondents said they think God is male, 37 percent said neither male nor female and 10 percent said "both male and female."

Only 1 percent thinks of God as a female, according to the poll.

Asked whether God has a human form, 41 percent said they think of God as "a spirit or power than can take on human form but is not inherently human."

As to whether God controls events on Earth, 29 percent believe that to be the case while 44 percent said God "observes but does not control what happens on Earth."

The survey was conducted online between Oct. 4 and 10 among 2,010 U.S. adults.

Careful What You Wish For

Bible-Clutching Teen Dies after Taser Shots

from The Associated Press

JERSEYVILLE, Ill. — Illinois authorities said a teenager holding a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" died after being shot by a police stun gun.

Police said the 17-year-old was shot twice with a stun gun after he became combative with officers trying to subdue him. He died Sunday night at a St. Louis hospital.


Oh, Noooooo...
Religion Isn't Silly at All!

Indian Youth Weds Hill To Ward off Curse

from AFP

RANCHI, India - A teenage boy in a tribal village in eastern India wed a hill in order to appease its goddess and remove a curse placed on his mother, a report said.

The boy, Robin, married a hill named Lakshmi after the goddess of prosperity in the presence of a large number of witnesses in Jharkand state, the Hindustan Times said.

The boy's mother, who had fallen and hurt herself while trying to climb the hill, believed the goddess was unhappy with her. She started to pray to Lakshmi and after three months the deity visited her in a dream.

"The hill goddess asked me to get my son married with her. The marriage will help in getting rid of her curse," said Keswar Devi, who lives in Bordih village, some 105 miles southeast of the state capital Ranchi.

"I requested my son and he agreed for the marriage."

On Tuesday, Robin wore a traditional bridegroom's outfit and set out on foot with a large festive party from his village to the hill three kilometers away.

The 400 villagers washed the hill with water and Robin placed a garland at the top.

After the priest performed the wedding rituals, a reception was thrown by the groom's family.

"I have accepted the hill as my wife," said Robin. "I have no remorse."


Congress Makes Church & State Violators Richer

House Votes to Limit Church-State Awards

from Religion News Service

WASHINGTON - Passage of a House bill that would limit financial rewards in church-state legal battles has been met with cheers and jeers as the controversial measure heads to the Senate.

The Public Expression of Religion Act, passed in a 244-173 vote on Tuesday (Sept. 26), would prohibit plaintiffs in church-state cases from recouping lawyer fees for challenging public expressions of faith.

Concerned Women for America, a conservative activist group, applauded the bill's passage. "If this bill is voted on by the Senate and signed into law, citizens will have the confidence to pursue lawsuits in cases where their religious liberties have been violated," said Lanier Swann, CWA's director of government relations.

Swann cited several cases where the ACLU and others have gone to court over church-state separation issues, including attempts to block displays of the Ten Commandments, denying the Boy Scouts meeting space on public property and the attempts to strike the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Other organizations, however, criticized the House's approval.

"This bill is an underhanded attempt to strip Americans of the protections guaranteed by the Constitution," People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas said. "It's another example of Congress undermining the system of checks and balances laid out by our nation's founders."

Eliminating the threat of crippling financial judgments will encourage citizens to "stand up to those who would chisel religious symbols from our public buildings and wipe our religious heritage from the public square," said Matthew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

However, Mark J. Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is more concerned that this could start a "full-scale assault on fundamental freedoms."

"Removing certain constitutional rights from the full protection of the law is a slippery slope threatening the protection of all rights," Pelavin said.

Snakes on a plane.


Viva Las Jesus!

Cops: Priests Fleeced Florida Flock of Millions

from The Associated Press

DELRAY BEACH, Florida - Two Roman Catholic priests stole millions in offerings and gifts made to their parish as far back as 40 years ago, prosecutors said Thursday.

Monsignor John Skehan, who was pastor at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church for four decades, was arrested Wednesday night on charges that he stole $8.6 million from the church, using the money to buy property and other assets, investigators said.

The 79-year-old priest was arrested at Palm Beach International Airport as he returned from Ireland and was being held on $400,000 bond on grand theft charges.

The Rev. Francis Guinan, who succeeded Skehan three years ago, has disappeared and was being sought, city police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said. He is alleged to have stolen an unspecified amount of money to take gambling trips to Las Vegas and the Bahamas.

An anonymous tip in June 2005 led police and the church to launch the investigation.

Jihad Declared on Man-Boobs

Pectoral Muscles Targeted by Fitness Fundamentalists

from The Onion

SANA'A, YEMEN — A videotaped statement shown Monday on Yemeni television provides the most conclusive evidence yet that the Muslim bodybuilding extremist group al-Huuruugh has acquired dumbbells from an unknown source and could use them to target vulnerable, undeveloped muscle groups in their pectoral region.

"I call upon the world to stand witness as I violently and repeatedly blast these pecs, purifying and rebuilding them into a shape pleasing to Allah!" a masked, shirtless weightlifter said in the tape, over the strains of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." "Seven! Eight! Nine! God is great, and so are my pecs, trapezius muscles, lower back, and abs! Thirteen! Fourteen! The great Satan Of Flab will soon feel the burn!"

State Department officials said the group is almost certainly a danger to themselves if they do not use better form and stretch thoroughly afterward.



What's German for 'Chickenshit Leashlickers'?

Or Arabic for 'That's Right - You're My Bitch Now'?

Fear of Offending Islam Spurs Hot Debate in Europe

from Reuters

LONDON - Four canceled performances of a Mozart opera have reignited an anxious and heated debate in Europe over free speech, self-censorship and Islam.

By canning its production of Idomeneo, fearful of security threats because of a scene that might offend Muslims, Berlin's Deutsche Oper provoked front-page headlines across the continent and found itself fending off charges ofMy severed what?! Release the kraken! cowardice.

The controversy centered on a scene in which King Idomeneo is shown on stage with the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad and the sea god Poseidon.

"Here we go again. It's like deja vu...This is exactly the kind of self-censorship I and my newspaper have been warning against," said Flemming Rose, culture editor of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten paper, which met a storm of Muslim protest after publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad last year.

He said bowing to fears of a violent Muslim reaction would only worsen the problem: "You play into the hands of the radicals. You are telling them: your tactics are working. This is a victory for the radicals. It's weakening the moderate Muslims who are our allies in this battle of ideas."

Berlin security officials had warned that staging the opera Idomeneo would pose an "incalculable security risk."

The decision to cancel the production even before any protests had materialized was singled out for criticism.

"To do it in advance of any actual protest I think invokes the next protest, because the radicals in any community are aided and abetted by that," said Lisa Appignanesi, a novelist and deputy president of the writers' group PEN in England. "We don't want to end up in a situation where we don't dare to speak up. What we do not want is a society where one is constantly fearful about what the people holding the bombs or the guns might say."

The latest controversy follows a furor in the Muslim world over comments by Pope Benedict this month in which he cited a medieval emperor who associated Islam with violence. He has since distanced himself from the quotations and assured Muslims of his respect, although without directly apologizing.

The opera cancellation was just the last of a series of incidents in recent years where religious sensitivities and artistic expression have clashed.

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered after outraging Muslims with a film accusing Islam of promoting violence against women, and a British play featuring sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh temple was canceled after protests.

Last year London's Tate Britain museum removed a sculpture by John Latham which it feared would offend Muslims and a British tour of Jerry Springer - The Opera was temporarily canceled when conservative Christian groups complained.

Such tensions are not new, although artists argue they have become more common since September 11, 2001. In 1989 British author Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding after Iran issued a fatwa calling for his death after he wrote The Satanic Verses.

"You can't be afraid of constantly watching your back in the arts," PEN's Appignanesi said. "One is in the business of provoking response. Otherwise there is no art."


Tastes Like Chicken

Super Priest Can Turn Anything into Body, Blood of Christ

from The Onion

TAOS, NM — Father Thomas Mandow appears to be a simple, mild-mannered parish priest, but his remarkable faith and surpassing holiness have bestowed him with the awesome power to transform just about anything into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

"I can state, without indulging myself in the sin of pride, that I have been blessed with the ability to convert anything into a Communion sacrament—which must be used for good—and then be partaken of in remembrance of our Lord and Savior," said Mandow in a press conference where he displayed a transubstantiated 24-piece bucket of chicken, a 64-oz. Mountain Dew bottle, and the September 2 issue of Sports Illustrated. "Although I would not advise eating all of these items for reasons having nothing to do with their intrinsic holiness."

Mandow believes he received the dangerous gift of super-consecration after being bitten by a radioactive bishop.


That's Our Benny!

Muslim Anger over Papal Comments Grows

from The Associated Press

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Pakistan's legislature unanimously condemned Pope Benedict XVI. Lebanon's top Shiite cleric demanded an apology. And in Turkey, the ruling party likened the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades.

Across the Islamic world Friday, Benedict's remarks on Islam and jihad in a speech in Germany unleashed a torrent of rage that many fear could burst into violent protests like those that followed publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

By ...and a bunch of crazy assholes, too.  Thank you. God bless. citing an obscure Medieval text that characterizes some of the teachings of Islam's founder as "evil and inhuman," Benedict inflamed Muslim passions and aggravated fears of a new outbreak of anti-Western protests.

The last outpouring of Islamic anger at the West came in February over the prophet cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper. The drawings sparked protests — some of them deadly — in almost every Muslim nation in the world.

Some experts said the perceived provocation by the spiritual leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics could leave even deeper scars.

"The declarations from the pope are more dangerous than the cartoons, because they come from the most important Christian authority in the world — the cartoons just came from an artist," said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst in Cairo, Egypt, who studies Islamic militancy.

On Friday, Pakistan's parliament adopted a resolution condemning Benedict for making what it called "derogatory" comments about Islam, and seeking an apology. Hours later, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican's ambassador to express regret over the pope's remarks Tuesday.

Notably, the strongest denunciations came from Turkey — a moderate democracy seeking European Union membership where Benedict is scheduled to visit in November as his first trip as pope to a Muslim country.

Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party, said Benedict's remarks were either "the result of pitiful ignorance" about Islam and its prophet or, worse, a deliberate distortion.

"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world," Kapusuz told Turkish state media. "It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."

"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," Kapusuz added. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."

Even Turkey's staunchly pro-secular opposition party demanded the pope apologize before his visit. Another party led a demonstration outside Ankara's largest mosque, and a group of about 50 people placed a black wreath outside the Vatican's diplomatic mission.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the pope should explain and "tell us what exactly did he mean...It can't just be left like that."

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi has tried to defuse anger, saying the pope did not intend to offend Muslim sensibilities and insisting Benedict respects Islam. In Pakistan, the Vatican envoy voiced regret at "the hurt caused to Muslims."

But Muslim leaders said outreach efforts by papal emissaries were not enough.

"We do not accept the apology through Vatican channels ... and ask him (Benedict) to offer a personal apology — not through his officials," Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's most senior Shiite cleric, told worshippers in Beirut.

Rashwan, the analyst, feared the official condemnations could be followed by widespread popular protests. Already there had been scattered demonstrations in several Muslim countries.

"What we have right now are public reactions to the pope's comments from political and religious figures, but I'm not optimistic concerning the reaction from the general public, especially since we have no correction from the Vatican," Rashwan said.

About 2,000 Palestinians angrily protested Friday night in Gaza City. Earlier, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of the Islamic militant group Hamas, said the pope had offended Muslims everywhere.

In Cairo, some 100 demonstrators stood outside the al-Azhar mosque chanting: "Oh Crusaders, oh cowards! Down with the pope!"

The pope quoted from a book recounting a conversation between 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and a Persian scholar on the truths of Christianity and Islam.

"The emperor comes to speak about the issue of jihad, holy war," Benedict said. "He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

The pope did not explicitly agree with nor repudiate the comment.

In Britain, the head of the Muslim Council, a body representing 400 Muslim groups, said the emperor's views quoted by the pope were bigoted.

"One would expect a religious leader such as the pope to act and speak with responsibility and repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations between the followers of Islam and Catholicism," said Muhammad Abdul Bari, the council's secretary-general.

Many Muslims accused Benedict of seeking to promote Judeo-Christian dominance over Islam.

Even Iraq's often divided Shiite and Sunni Arabs found unity in their anger over the remarks, with clerics from both communities criticizing Benedict.

"The pope and Vatican proved to be Zionists and that they are far from Christianity, which does not differ from Islam. Both religions call for forgiveness, love and brotherhood," Shiite cleric Sheik Abdul-Kareem al-Ghazi said during a sermon in Iraq's second-largest city, Basra.

Few in Turkey, especially, failed to pick up on Benedict's reference to Istanbul as Constantinople — the city's name more than 500 years ago — before it was conquered by Muslim Ottoman Turks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the German-born pope, saying his message had been misunderstood. Didn't this thing used to be bulletproof?!

"It is an invitation to dialogue between religions and the pope has explicitly urged this dialogue, which I also endorse and see as urgently necessary," she said Friday. "What Benedict XVI makes clear is a decisive and uncompromising rejection of any use of violence in the name of religion."

In the United States, a Muslim group, the Council for American-Islamic Relations, asked for a meeting with a Vatican representative and urged more efforts at improving understanding between Muslims and Catholics.

"The proper response to the pope's inaccurate and divisive remarks is for Muslims and Catholics worldwide to increase dialogue and outreach efforts aimed at building better relations between Christianity and Islam," the group said.