Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry was the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a now-dormant site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He was the Editor-in-Chief of two Manhattan-based magazines until he decided to give up commercial publishing for professional photography... with a lot of blogging on the side. These days, he lives in an old seaside farmhouse in Maine with his wife, three kids, and two big dogs.
I wrote yesterday about the lack of self-reflection by U.K. Archbishop John Sentamu, whose Anglican Church is both ultra-wealthy and keen on special tax breaks; His Excellence nonetheless believes he has the moral standing to harangue smart taxpayers into coughing up more money to save dying children. An attentive reader sent me a picture of the Archbishop’s residence, called Bishopthorpe Palace, near York. And a palace it is indeed. I found some additional photos of the mega-mansion for you. [Click headline for more…] Read more
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Peoples Temple’s mass murder/suicide in the jungle of Guyana, South America. It was the single greatest loss of American civilian life ever recorded in a non-natural disaster — not counting the attacks of 9/11. And although the events of November 1978 offer a cautionary tale about religious fervor and the mad demands of false messiahs, it’s also true that Jim Jones, the evil genius in question, was a deconverted Christian who had come to embrace marxism and atheism. On the demand of the Indiana-born cult leader, 908 people — including more than 300 children — ended their lives by gulping down a poisoned drink (an act that may have given rise to the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”). Some of Jones’s followers imbibed the fatal beverage willingly, hoping to “step into another plane,” as their leader put it. Others were forced at gunpoint. Temple members hunted down and killed a visiting U.S. Congressman and members of the American press. Jones, a few hours after ordering and overseeing the carnage, ended his own life with a single bullet to the head. The next day, this was the scene from the air: An early remembrance of sorts comes to us via the website Dangerous Minds, which yesterday posted a mind-bending fly-on-the wall video of a San Francisco Peoples Temple gathering from around 1975, three years before the bizarre tragedy in Guyana. [Click headline for more…] Read more
When British Archbishop John Sentamu (pictured below) isn’t busy slamming gay rights or denouncing atheists, he likes to lecture people about fairness. Easy to do… I mean, who doesn’t like fairness, right? Sentamu, the second-highest authority in the Church of England, confidently trained his sights on tax avoiders the other day: Tax avoidance is “sinful” and tantamount to robbery, one of the UK’s most senior clerics has said as G8 leaders prepare to discuss the issue. Dr. John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, told the BBC that individuals and companies needed to be held accountable for their actions when it came to tax. Tax avoidance was hindering efforts to tackle hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, he suggested. You know what they say about how, when you point a finger, three of your digits are pointing back at you?… [Click headline for more…] Read more
On Monday, New Hampshire was the scene of a state court verdict (PDF) that struck down a recent law allowing tax dollars to flow into religious schools: The program provided a large tax credit to businesses that contributed to scholarship organizations that paid for tuition at private schools. Though the program was purportedly designed to expand educational opportunities, Justice John M. Lewis held that the program violated the state’s constitution because it had the effect of diverting public funds to religious schools. “New Hampshire students, and their parents, certainly have the right to choose a religious education,” the Stafford County Superior Court judge wrote in the ruling. “However, the government is under no obligation to fund religious education. Indeed, the government is expressly forbidden from doing so by the very language of the New Hampshire Constitution.” With that phrase, Lewis was referring to the Blaine Amendment that is enshrined in the Constitution of no fewer than 39 states, including his. The amendment has a pretty fascinating genesis. In the 1870s, Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, frequently expressed his commitment to keeping tax money out of religious education. In fulsome tones, Grant praised the separation of church and state, and attacked the idea of government support for “sectarian schools” run by religious organizations. [Click headline for more…] Read more