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Florida Couple Face 15 Years in Prison for Sex on the Beach…or Maybe Not

The Young Turks recently claimed that Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20 have been sentenced to 15 years in prison following their Monday May 4, 2015 convictions on two counts each of lewd and lascivious acts for having sex on a public beach in Bradenton Beach, Florida on July 20, 2014. The TYT “army,” comprised mostly of group-thinking militant liberals and atheists, predictably turned this case into a platform from which to propagandize their paranoid anti-conservative, anti-religion demagoguery and lies. According to them, the penalty is excessive, and it is so because of the domination of Christian-conservative fundamentalism in Florida’s political and legal systems; a fundamentalism so puritanically anti-sex even the most innocuous public exhibitions of sex and sexuality are harshly and unreasonably punished. So extreme is the paranoia, demagoguery and lies exhibited by some of these liberals and atheists that they compare the punishment, and, for some, even the making of public sex illegal itself, to the ideology of terrorist organizations, like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and fundamentalist, Middle Eastern countries. One TYT fan called the southeastern State, for example, “Saudi Florida.” No justification is provided for these analogies, and there is none that can be offered; they are faulty comparisons merely made either for their emotional appeal or because their originators are delusional and hysterical enough to believe them. If Florida was even remotely close to what they allege, the disgusting public displays of sexual depravity exhibited in the State during events like Spring Break and Gay Pride would not be allowed and transgressors would be severely punished. Notice too that it is only religious terrorists and theocracies that atheists and liberals use as the standard for these juxtapositions, not atheist terrorists, like the Tamil Tigers, or state atheist “utopias,” like China and North Korea, where punishments for the same or lesser offenses are just as harsh or worse. Of course not! To them it is only religion that “poisons everything” and is “the root of all evil” whereas atheism is the realization of Shangri-la. Well one such atheist Promised Land is North Korea, which punishes lewd behavior with a trip to a labor camp with intense work requirements, daily beatings, physical punishments, harsh living conditions, usually “with 300 to 400 people sleeping crowded into one room,” and such a lack of food that inmates feed off such things as rats and grass. At first, however, I too believed the potential punishment for this couple to be excessive for what appears to be a victimless, nonviolent offense that could be handled under public nuisance laws carrying a much lighter sentence, often simply a fine, and thus I began to investigate why they were tried under a stricter statute. As I became aware of the context of the charges, I began to endorse the punishment.

As usual, the Young Turks got their facts wrong, and a quick fact check proved that the couple have not yet been sentenced but that 15 years is only the maximum penalty for these individuals’ indiscretion under the statute under which they were prosecuted. The couple are not facing this punishment because of some ideological or religious domination in Floridian law but because their sex act was witnessed by a 3 year old girl thus making them subject to statute 800.04, which governs the prosecution and punishment of a number of “(l)ewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age,” including sexual assault and battery, sexual coercion, sexual molestation and statutory rape. In other words, their offense is covered by a law aiming to protect children, and punish a host of minor and serious sex crimes against or in the presence of them. Perhaps those complaining about the alleged “severity” of the potential penalties are unaware that this is why the maximum sentences are what they are, or maybe they still do not believe such sexual violations and corruption of minors are serious crimes, or crimes at all. Unless, of course, it is committed by religious people and religious authorities. Then they become great crimes to these people; not out of concern for the children, mind you, but because such violations can be exploited to attack religion, religious people and religious institutions. If these liberals and atheists truly want to protect children from sexual crimes, corruption and exploitation then they will want all such malfeasance punished regardless of who or what the culprit is, and they will see this law for what it is – ideologically and religiously neutral. They do not have to support the maximum penalty in this particular case but they must accept that it is being applied solely because it is the applicable statute and not for any ideological or religious motive. It is that simple!

Had a child not been present, these individuals would likely have been tried under a statute carrying lighter penalties, like 877.03, which deals with disorderly conduct and carries a maximum of  “60 days in jail or 6 months of probation, and a $500.00 fine.” Because 800.04 includes such serious transgressions, though, the maximum sentences must be strong enough to punish, and hopefully deter, them effectively. Thus, for those who are convicted but under 18 years of age, the sentence is a minimum prison sentence of 24.5 months and, at the judge’s discretion, a maximum of 5 years in prison, 5 years of sex offender probation and or $5,000 in fines. For those over 18, the maximum punishment is 15 years in prison, 15 years of sex offender probation and/or $10,000 in fines. Unless certain criteria for exemption is met, those convicted must also register as a sex offender. Remember these are maximum penalties that not all crimes will receive. The punishment is to be proportional to the crime. Two consenting adults having sex in public is certainly not as detrimental and serious as other crimes covered by this law, and nobody involved has claimed it to be, and thus violators would normally probably receive a lighter sentence. State Attorney Ed Brodsky explicitly says “It was never our intention to seek 15 years for either of them…That’s not a reasonable sentence.”

In fact, Florida never wanted to prosecute this case and instead offered the defendants plea deals sentencing Caballero’s to prison for 2.5 years and Alvarez to jail for 90 days, and excluding them from the sex offenders registry. Both these deals were rejected by the defendants. Some in the media say that even under these  deals the punishment is worse than that meted out in some fundamentalist Middle Eastern countries. Buzzfeed, for example, argues that Caballero’s deal was “notably more severe than the maximum two-year prison sentence for a similar offense in the United Arab Emirates, where a British couple were sentenced to three months in prison (though deported before serving any time) for indecent behavior on a beach in 2008.” Notice the lack of context in that statement as it doesn’t state that Caballero would have received a longer sentence not because of his sexual indiscretions but because this is his second felony in less than 3 years after being released from prison,  where he had spent 8 years for cocaine trafficking. For this same reason, the State is allegedly now pushing for Caballero to receive the maximum 15 years in prison (although some reports say it not pursuing this sentence); a lesser punishment for Alvarez is being pursued, which may or may not involve jail time. Both will be registered as sex offenders. Funny how these details are ignored by those whining that the couple is being “harshly” punished merely for having public sex because of Florida’s alleged theocracy. The mainstream media has not helped the matter because it has preferred sensationalizing the prospective sentence while omitting or glossing over the context of the case, as I have in this blog.

Public sex is detrimental enough to contribute to the corruption of public morals, to “outrage the sense of public decency” and to “affect the peace and quiet of persons,” all of which are dealt with under statute 877.03. Had a child not witnessed this act, a lesser charge likely would have been pursued by the State. As it is, a child was present and thus prosecution under 800.04 is right! Having rejected the plea deals, which I believe were fair, I fully endorse Caballero receiving the maximum punishment, because he is a repeat offender, and Alvarez receiving jail time and perhaps a fine. These 2 have made their bed and must now lie in it.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Atheism and Worldwide Suicide

The suicide rate is a key indicator of not only a people’s health, but of their standards of morality and compassion, and how they value life. Research conducted in the US finds that depression and suicide (both attempted and completed), are significantly higher among the religiously unaffiliated than betwixt those with religious affiliation (see my previous posts here and here). However, are such findings consistent internationally? Yes. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman confirms the inverse relationship between religion and suicide repeats internationally, where suicide declines with greater religiosity. Concentrating on male suicide rates, Zuckerman finds that 9 of the top 10 countries with the highest suicide rate are highly irreligious, Sri Lanka being the exception.

It is now indesputable that religion is the basis of a happy, strong, rational, mentally well adjusted inidvidual. A 2006 Sao Paulo University meta-review of 850 studies on religion and mental health, for example, concluded “that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”

In fact religion’s positive contribution to mental health is so powerful it extends beyond the religious. In a study of 90,000 individuals over 26 countries in Europe in 2009,Professors Andrew E. Clark and  and Orsolya Lelkes found that “religious behaviour” is not only positively correlated with “life satisfaction” among religiously affiliated individuals by whom it is practiced but also often of the irreligious people around them. In other words, there is a “spinoff” effect whereby the positive mental health outcomes spawned by the religious practices of religiously-affiliated individuals frequently extends to non-religious individuals. This, however, is only true in regions of high religiosity. In regions of high irreligiosity or atheism, the opposite tends to occur, with the psychological misery of the non-religious often infecting the religious.

This is no surprise because not only does religion form the basis of an individual’s mental health but it also provides the individual with the ability to help those around him through valuing their lives and reinforcing their inherent worth through comfort and compassion.  As it states in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 God is “the Father of compassion and…of all comfort.” We who accept God are comforted by Him “in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God.”

This is not to state that atheism causes suicide and other mental health problems as there is insufficient evidence at this point to make such a definitive conclusion.  Atheism, however, provides life with no meaning, morality or value; it does not give life any sanctity, purpose, significance or inherent worth; it offers no rationale why life should be lived or propagated, and no reason to oppose suicide; it is, in its most extreme forms, nihilistic and, to quote Bertrand Russell, “the firm foundation of unyielding dispair.”

Life’s inherent and objective meaning, morality, purpose, value, substance and worth have been and shall remain gifts given to us by God, communicated to us through religion. To reject religion is to reject God and vice versa, and to do so means you are left to your own devices, and to ultimate failure. As it loses its religion, a nation becomes deprived of any objective moral and intellectual foundation for opposing not only suicide but any method of taking life, including murder;  indeed it loses any objective reason for opposing anything once thought of as morally reprehensible, as it descends into unending despair and “blind indifference.”

Suicide, here, becomes just another routine, ho-hum aspect of daily life; more than this, it becomes an essential part of the “survival of the fittest,” and thus something that must be allowed to play itself out, unhindered by unnatural barriers or irrational human emotions, because, as militant atheist James Randi proclaims, suicide is simply a way to weed out the weak, strengthen the human gene pool and “clear the air.” Perhaps, then, suicide should even be facilitated and celebrated, and indeed, in the most suicide-friendly countries, which are also the most atheist or irreligious, it does often morph into the cultural/social and often state approved panacea for any and every personal, mental and physical illness, irregularity, issue or problem afflicting an individual, including newborns. This includes anorexia, bulimia, blindness, depression, disability, economic distress, muffed operations, like gender reassignment surgery, and simply being elderly. This liberal approach is often called “dying with dignity,” “end of life care,” “euthanasia,” “right to die” or some other humane-sounding euphemism; in reality, it is probably just survival of the fittest being facilitated at the expense of human compassion, medical care and valuing life.

For example, in Holland, a nation so Godless that even 1 in 6 pastors is atheist, a country so liberal and irreligious that atheists often hold it up as a prime example of the wonders their rejection of religion can bring, since it legalized euthanasia in 2002,  “medical care for the terminally-ill” has declined,”  as one of the architects of  this legalization, Dr. Els Borst, admits. Dr. Anne-Marie The has further found “palliative care…so inadequate in Holland that patients ‘often ask for euthanasia out of fear’ of dying in agony because care and pain relief is so poor.” Even more, “there have been thousands of cases of involuntary euthanasia and dozens of killings of disabled newborns.” Holland now has a movement promoting assisted suicide for those over 70, including for no other reason than they are “tired” or their lives have supposedly been “completed” and serve no further purpose. In Japan, as The New Yorker’s Larissa MacFarquhar writes, “suicide can absolve guilt and cancel debt, can restore honor and prove loyalty…Suicide can be a gesture of moral integrity and freedom, or an act of beauty.”

While I do not say atheism causes suicide and other mental health problems, it does help create a culture of death that cheapens, wastes, destroys and discards life; one in which suicide becomes culturally, financially, medically, naturally, politically and socially justified and preferred over compassion, effective cures, palliative care and any other means that resolves, betters or manages that which encourages or results in suicide. The opposite is true with religion, especially high religiosity.

 

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Atheism, Depression and Suicide

It is often claimed by militant atheists that religion is detrimental to the health of individuals, especially their mental well-being. These atheists are stupid, ignorant and/or dishonest. Truly, dishonesty is rife within the atheist community, particularly its militant factions, where it permeates even its highest intellectual order, which includes Godless superstars like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, PZ Myers, and so forth, who purposely neglect proof debunking their hypotheses and even manipulate evidence to advance their anti-religious position, agenda and prejudice; their books, papers and so-called documentaries make this abundantly clear.

As I pointed in an earlier post, scientific inquiry has now proven a positive relationship between religion and mental health. While study upon study proves irreligious individuals, like atheists, are more likely to suffer depression and self destructive behavior, including suicide, the opposite has been found true of those with religious affiliation. In fact, the more religious one is the better mental health is usually exhibited. Religion has been proven particularly effective against depression and suicide.

Perhaps the most notable clinical study to date directly investigating suicide among religiously-affiliated and irreligious individuals was published in 2004 by the American Journal of Psychiatry. The Study focused on the suicide rate of religiously-affiliated and irreligious depressed in-patients and found, compared to the former, the latter have “significantly more lifetime suicide attempts…more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder” and perceive “fewer reasons for living” and “fewer moral objections to suicide.” Religion, the study finds, provides a protective, mitigating factor against suicide, particularly because it encourages lower levels of aggression and “greater moral objections to suicide.”

The study concludes by suggesting further examination of how religious affiliation mitigates against “aggressive behavior and how moral objections can reduce the probability of acting on suicidal thoughts may offer new therapeutic strategies in suicide prevention.” This is a rather striking conclusion as here is this prominent secular, scientific publication, the world’s most read and cited psychiatric journal, of a profession which is highly atheist, suggesting that religion not simply conventional treatment/medication may serve as at least part of a strategy for coping with mental issues which may otherwise lead to suicidal behavior.

A 2002 study by Sterling C. Hilton in the American Journal of Epidemiology may help answer these latter inquiries. In that study, Hilton focused on young male suicide in Utah, which, at that time, had the ninth highest self-murder rate in the United States. Utah has traditionally had the highest per capita concentration of Mormons in the US, thus many, particularly atheists, surmised a causal link between not only Mormonism, but also religion in general, and suicide. For this reason, Utah is even today sometimes used as evidence for the causal link between religion, depression and suicide. Those who do this, however, do so dishonestly, and simply to propagate their crusade against religion, for not only has there never been evidence in its favor, but it has effectively been debunked by Hilton’s research. The opposite, in fact, has been proven as suicide rates are lower among active participants of the Mormon faith than heir irreligious counterparts.

Hilton found a combination of religiosity, including belief “in a higher being, an afterlife…the sanctity of life” and that “life, in and of itself, is precious,” alongside a comprehensive social support system provided by the Church, were among the main factors leading to lower suicide rates. Hilton agrees that while this study focused on Utah Mormons, affiliation and participation with any religion has proven to yield similar results. Indeed studies continuously find religious involvement and/or affiliation predicts better mental health and stability. For example, a review of the research in this area by Duke Psychiatrist Harold Koenig in 2012, and an earlier one by Koenig, Almedia and Neto in 2006, which concluded “higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being…and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behavior, drug/alcohol use/abuse.” Gallup as well found in 2012 that in the US, the “Very Religious Have Higher Wellbeing Across All Faiths.”

Thus, while Atheist extremists want to destroy religion claiming it does only harm and evil, the objective, scientific evidence proves the contrary; indeed religion saves lives by helping people live better, longer and stronger. It seems the medical establishment is slowly becoming aware of the importance of religion in healthcare for examinations of the potential clinical use of religion as part of mental health therapy are currently being undertaken. For example, by Koenig, Marylin Batez and John Toews.

 

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Religion is NOT Mental Illness: The Positive Effects of Religion on Mental Health

(Sources used are listed at the bottom of the article; not all may be available online)

Militant atheists, like anti-theists, “new” atheists and state atheists assert that religion is, causes or worsens mental illness, and only by releasing oneself from its “shackles” can the potential for a rational, happy, emotionally and mentally healthy individual begin to be realized. Despite their popularity and resonance among the militant aspects of the irreligious community,  these claims are not only unfounded but continuously proven false by scientific inquiry, which finds the more religious one is the better mental health is exhibited. Religious involvement and/or affiliation is not only associated with but also predicts better mental health and stability, including lower rates of anxiety, delinquency, depression, substance abuse, suicide and suicide attempts, higher levels of rationality, satisfaction with life, self actualization, self esteem, well-being and more effective coping with pain (both physical and emotional), stress and suffering.

These findings, unlike contrary affirmations put forth by militants, which are based on nothing more than unquestioned, idle, prejudiced, pseudo scientific research and theories, fallacious reasoning, bigotry and/or prior ideological commitment, are based on the objective application of the modern scientific method by independent, world renowned experts on mental health who hold no standing bias for or against religion but rather are only interested in following the evidence where it leads. These include professionals from the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association,  Association of American Medical Colleges, Center for Psychology of Religion, Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Mayo Clinic, Religious Research Association and Southern Medical Association. This research is readily available in books, peer review journals and often online and thus there is no legitimate excuse for continuing to believe and propagate antithetical assertions.

Research as to why precisely this is the case and what this means for the future clinical diagnosing and treatment of mental illnesses has only recently been undertaken with any diligence and thus answers are scarce. However, psychologist Stephen Joseph, whose own research supports the positive relationship between religion and mental health, argues that it is in part due to religion providing a purpose and meaning in life which is not offered by other belief systems or lifestyles, like atheism and materialism. What we currently know is that a worldview, philosophy, way of life centered around religion is capable of performing an unmatched, powerful and transforming role in one’s life by providing one’s life with eternal and immutable purpose, meaning and virtue, a system of rewards and punishments and a hope and vision for ever better things, embodied and experienced through both acceptance of an eternal, loving God-head and affiliation, association and participation with fellow believers. Religion provides people with unrivaled empowerment and togetherness, with God and the community of fellow believers, allowing them to cope, withstand and overcome negative experiences, like pain and suffering, which may otherwise lead to mental health degradation.

Therefore, rather than being, causing or worsening mental illness, religion is  the foundation of good mental health. William James once rebutted an atheist’s remark that one’s religion is the result of a sick mind by stating that perhaps one’s atheism is the result of a sick liver. The point of course is that instead of accusing religious people of being mentally ill, atheists should evalute themselves for it is perhaps they who are suffering from such illness, delusion, madness, and, in fact, recent research has shown atheism to be linked with mental illness, specifically autism and asperger’s syndrome. This may explain the extreme, irrational, unreasonable, and often violent, hostility towards religion and religious believers exhibited by many atheists, including their most well-known, outspoken leaders, like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, PZ Myers, etc. Regardless, equating religious belief with mental illness is simply a baseless, fallacious and desperate attempt to demean and demonize that and those with which these militant atheists do not agree and vehemently detest. What is proven by these militants’ continued acceptance and championing of this debunked premise, despite not only the lack of sound, supporting, scientific proof, but in the presence of contrary scientific evidence, is their dishonesty and hypocrisy because these same individuals simultaneously lecture, ad nauseum, that we should not only believe what is “scientifically” supported and verified, and shape our lives accordingly, but berate and mock those who deviate from this norm.

Sources:

Boundless. Social Correlates of Religion: There are correlations between the degree of religious belief in society and social factors like mortality rates, wealth and happiness.

Daily Mail. Is atheism linked to autism? Controversial study points to  relationship between the two. 20 September 2011.

Dervic, Kanita, et al. “Religious Affiliation and Suicide Attempt,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, VOL. 161, No. 12.

French, Sarah and Joseph, Stephen. “Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation,” Mental Health, Religion & Culture, Vol 2(2), Nov 1999, 117-120. doi: 10.1080/13674679908406340.

Gallups. “In U.S., Very Religious Have Higher Wellbeing Across All Faiths.” February 16, 2012.

Hackney, C. H. and Sanders, G. S.  “Religiosity and Mental Health: A Meta–Analysis of Recent Studies.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 42: 43–55. doi: 10.1111/1468-5906.t01-1-00160. 12 FEB 2003.

King, M. et al. “Religion, spirituality and mental health: results from a national study of English households.” British Journal of Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;202(1):68-73. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.112003. Epub 2012 Nov 22

Koenig, Harold G. “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications”  Psychiatry. Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 278730, 33 pages.

Koenig, Harold G., Michael E. McCullough & David B. Larson. Handbook of Religion and Health.  Oxford Univ. Press, 2012.

Moreira-Almeida A., et al. “Religiousness and mental health: a review.” Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria. 2006 Sep;28(3):242-50. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

Shastri, Keyur Vasantlal “Religious Involvement, Spirituality and Medicine : Subject Review and Implications for Clinical Practice”

Smith, Timothy B., et al. “Religiousness and depression: Evidence for a main effect and the moderating influence of stressful life events.” Psychological Bulletin, Vol 129(4), Jul 2003, 614-636.

University of Warwick. “Psychology Researcher Says Spiritual Meaning Of Christmas Brings More Happiness Than Materialism,” Science Blog. 8 December 2003.

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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Mental Health/Illness

 

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