Rounding up the news from the world of faith and faithlessness
Westboro music tastes mISSoURI Indie rock superstars Radiohead may divide opinion amongmusic fans, but it’s unlikely many detractors feel as strongly as the rabidly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, who branded the band “Freak monkey’s [sic] with mediocre tunes” as they turned out to picket a recent gig in Kansas City.
Yet, in a bizarre twist, it turns out that at least one member of the church is happy to call himself a fan. “I listen to Radiohead,” the church’s “media outreach” oﬃcer
Steve Drain told Vice magazine, pointing out that while he likes the music, he hates the band for saying, “It’s OK to be gay.”
It seems this kind of cognitive dissonance comes easily to Drain, who also declared himself a fan of Ozzy Osborne. “Black Sabbath has some interesting songs. But on the moral standpoint, they’re horrible.”
Breaking achey hearts HoLLYWood It seems we have a new atheist heroine, in the, ahem, divine form of Southern-fried popstrel and film starlet Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana. According to reports she has enraged “the haters and her fans” alike by tweeting a quote by the theoretical physicist and prominent atheist Lawrence Krauss marvelling at the wonders of the Universe.
“You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded,” runs the quote. “Because the elements weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in stars. So forget Jesus. Stars died so you could live.”
Miley apparently thought this sentiment was “beautiful” thus revealing herself to be, in the eyes of her public, Satan and Richard Dawkins rolled into one. A torrent of hate from the haters followed. “You seriously believe that crap?” asked one Twitter follower. “It’s so ridiculously stupid. Go to hell.” “Forget Jesus???” asked another, “Seriously? What has happened to you out there in the famous world?”
As if to compound her offence, Miley recently passed on this aphorism to her followers, from Charlie Chaplin: “Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.”
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Road rage FLoRIda A battle has broken out between Christians and a humanist group over the blessing of a highway in Florida. Humanists in the sunshine state recently discovered that a minister in Polk County, just east of Tampa, had embarked upon a scheme to anoint the roads surrounding the area, thus warding off unholy spirits and ungodly forces. “A strip of anointed oil has been placed over all lanes of highway and a prayer has been given at each location asking God to have angels inspect every vehicle that travels into or out of this county,” explained Pastor Frank Smith, who claims that crime in the area has decreased since the scheme was introduced in 2010.
But now the atheists are fighting back, using “unholy water” to mop the stretch of anointed road. “We’re not doing anything to harm anyone,” explained Humanists of Florida spokesperson Rob Curry. “No gods will be harmed in the washing of the roads.”
Shock rock IoWa A high school is facing a backlash from parents after a Christian rock band invited to perform for students used the opportunity to impart their anti-gay views, show images of aborted foetuses and tell female students they should assume a submissive role in their future marriages.
Junkyard Prophet were invited to Dunkerton High School to perform a gig for the students and spread their “very strong antiviolence, anti-drug, anti-alcohol” message. And all was fine during the musical section. “The kids were rocking out,” said the local Superintendent, but once the gig was over things started to go awry. The students were divided into male and female groups, and the girls were taken aside for a lecture in evangelical morality.
“They told my daughter, the girls, that they were going to have mud on their wedding dresses if they weren’t virgins,” said one mother. “I couldn’t even understand her, she was crying so hard. They told these kids that anyone who was gay was going to die at the age of 42. It just blows me away that no one stopped this.” The local school district is now trying to recover the fee it was charged for Junkyard Prophet’s appearance. Biblical plague London Earlier this year, Britain’s favourite fundamentalist, Stephen Green of Christian Voice, was gloating that Tesco’s poor financial performance over the Christmas period was due to God punishing the supermarket giant for making a donation to London Gay Pride.
Now Green, who appears to be devoting much of his time to Tesco-watching, has expressed joy at the news that a branch of the store in London’s Covent Garden has had to close due to a mouse infestation.
“Nothing has gone right for Tesco since they decided to support ‘gay pride’,” writes Green on his website. “Their only hope is to repent of that decision and put their trust in God.”
Rentokil were unavailable for comment.
Pontifical whiff Rome An Italian perfumer has developed a special brand of cologne for Pope Benedict XVI’s personal use. Called “Water of Faith”, the cologne is “infused with lemon tree blossom and the smell of Spring grass”, with the aim of evoking “the German pontiff’s love of the forests and animals in his native Bavaria, as well as peace and tranquillity”.
Speaking to Italian newspaper Il Messagero, Silviana Casoli explained how she settled on the scent: “I realised that an essence like this had to have at its core something pure and clean, recalling the idea of peace. I thought of the smells the Pope would smell when praying at the Grotto of Lourdes.”
Shattered dreams Manchester A former semi-professional footballer is suing the British arm of the Baptist World Alliance, claiming that the 19 years he spent as a “fervent evangelist” in the Baptist faith deprived him of the chance to play for Manchester United.
Forty-six-year-old Arquimedes Nganga, who now lives in Forest Hill, London, but used to play for a Third Division side in his native Portugal, converted to the faith in 1989, and quit football two years later at the age of 25, devoting himself to his new religion. He is now suing the church, accusing it of “destroying his social life, causing him ‘psychological harm’ and defrauding him of money through compulsory donations”.
Nganga earned £200 per week playing semi-professionally, but says he could have earned £20,000 at a top English club had he not been deceived “into following false beliefs”. “I could definitely have had a long career in the Premiership,” he explained. “I see many players playing today who I amnot inferior to – and perhaps even better than. Most midfielders are either defensive or attacking but I was both. I had something new.”
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Going Gaga Jakarta Pop superstar Lady Gaga has been troubling Islamic scholars in Indonesia, after tickets for the Jakarta leg of her world tour sold in just two hours. Indonesians snapped up the 25,000 tickets for the 3 June gig, but it would seem the singer’s fan base in the world’s largest Muslim country does not extend to religious leaders, who have condemned the event as haram, or forbidden. While admitting that he had never actually seen or heard a Lady Gaga performance, Cholil Ridwan, chairman of the influential Indonesian Council of Ulema, warned that the concert could have a damaging effect on the country’s Muslims:
“The concert is intended to destroy the nation’s morality. She is from the West, and she often shows her private parts when performing.”
Ridwan’s condemnation of Gaga received the backing of a local imam, Ali Mustafa Yaqub. “Perform naked only in front of your husband,” he said, explaining that on-stage nudity is forbidden in Islam.
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