Pharyngula

Witch doctors

Bob Larson.

Pam has the story—he’s an evil evangelist whose scam is to snooker people into coughing up wads of cash for his “exorcism” services. He’s a first rate kook, a flaming wicked con artist who may well be so deluded that he actually believes in his own magic powers, but who cares? He’s nuts. His followers are nuts. Most Christians aren’t going to complain if you point out that he’s a loon—most are going to be vaguely embarrassed by these fringe quacks flourishing within their religion.

This picture, though, is not from the Bob Larson article.

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Palms upraised and eyes closed, the workers sit in silent adoration around a conference table as religious music plays on a laptop computer. One member suddenly drops to his knees in rapt devotion.

That’s from the front page of today’s Star Tribune, part of a longish article on the growing practice of flaunting faith in the workplace. It’s a non-judgmental article that mentions that “The Twin Cities is becoming a leader in the application of faith at work,” gives lots of of space to the Christian advocates, and only briefly acknowledges that members of minority religions might find it somewhat oppressive. It fails to mention the central point: these people are nuts.

I don’t see anything to distinguish a Twin Cities CEO saying they need to “Lead like Jesus” and Bob Larson admonishing everyone to “Do What Jesus Did.” It’s people who believe in magical thinking and create an environment in the workplace to pressure other sheep to go along—they believe in stupid things and are spreading the Stupid Word. I think this is a bigger problem than the Bob Larsons of the planet; this is the work that paves the way for greater and greater foolishness, and it’s generally given a pass or even encouragement.

Let’s stop, OK? Can we please start asking pointed questions of all these rubbish spreading clowns and make them feel at least a little bit uncomfortable about their foolishness?

Comments

  1. #1 Caledonian
    February 26, 2006

    But that’s rude, and in our society, being foolish is a venial sin while being rude is a mortal one.

  2. #2 Aa
    February 26, 2006

    But it’s only rude in one direction, towards religion. It’s perfectly acceptable to be rude and intolerant towards the non-religious so I say PZ has it right.

  3. #3 wamba
    February 26, 2006

    I don’t see anything to distinguish a Twin Cities CEO saying they need to “Lead like Jesus” and Bob Larson admonishing everyone to “Do What Jesus Did.”

    Get yourself nailed to a tree, then come back from the dead to reassert your leadership and divinity? I don’t see that catching on en masse.

  4. #4 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2006

    Maybe we should encourage more of them to try it. They can come back and proselytize after they’ve proven themselves with a resurrection.

  5. #5 John C. Randolph
    February 26, 2006

    Do what Jesus did?

    Get tortured to death, and then have my philosophy corrupted by generations of power-seeking charlatans?

    No, thanks.

    -jcr

  6. #6 AndyS
    February 26, 2006

    My favortie part:

    “I’ve never had a problem finding demons in the Pacific Northwest, for example, because it has been such a non-church, non-religious area. Demons are more free to operate,” he said. “Ironically, the other place is the Bible Belt. The devil is where he’s not expected to be. It’s what happens when people have too much religion and not enough spirituality.”

    That about covers it all, doesn’t it? Everybody needs this guy. Maybe we could pass the hat and pay him to cast out the demons in the Bush administration, fairly expensive of course given the numbers. Or, thinking about the previous post, I wonder if he does math demons?

  7. #7 Roy Stogner
    February 26, 2006

    Leading a public corporation like Jesus would is illegal. Giving away all your company’s money would make shareholder lawsuits against you an open and shut case.

    On the other hand, I guess if you’ve already given away all your own money too, you might be safe – what are they going to sue for, blood?

  8. #8 dbpitt
    February 26, 2006

    Cons must be living the easy life in America today. All those McDonald’s commercials and American Idol shows have turned people into gullible little imbeciles.

    Did anyone else see “The Exorcist” and think it wasn’t scary at all? But I have some very religious friends who say it’s the scariest movie they have ever seen. I guess if you live your life in fear of Satan, it would be terrifying. But if you don’t, well, its not.

  9. #9 Dustin
    February 26, 2006

    Ahh, Bob Larson. Another of Colorado’s finest.

    I wonder why it is that one of the states with the most compelling geology in the continuous 48 is home to these kinds of weirdos. I mean, if you wanted to persist in the belief that an all-powerful toddler created the world a mere 5,000 years ago, I’d think that the last place you’d want to live would be the bottom of the Cretaceous sea.

    I’ve known several people who, upon visiting Colorado Springs, Pueblo, or the span between Denver and Colorado Springs, mention something like, “Wow, it almost looks like we’re underwater”. It’s that obvious. There are remnants of coral reefs everywhere, and they’re packed with fossils of things that just aren’t here anymore. Mention any of this to the average resident of Colorado Springs, though, and they’ll give you their best look of mock-puzzlement, and then they’ll give you some kind of hogwash about the flood.

    Oh, that makes sense, I mean, coral reefs that leave fossilized remains which are literally hundreds of feet tall can totally form in a paltry 40 days. What was I thinking?

    It gets better… some of the canyons here have exposed rock that goes all the way back to the Cambrian period. This state has such a rich fossil record that very casual fossil enthusiasts can, just by walking around, find fossils that make seasoned field guys turn green. I have a huge fossil collection that I’ve put together by nothing more complicated than walking along the bank of Fountain creek (which cuts through the Pierre Shale), or walking up one of the Bluffs near UCCS. Hell, some of the petroglyphs left by the natives that you can find around here are thought to be more than 5,000 years old.

    I think that’s what bothers me the most about the mindset that religious people can take on — the evidence contradicting their beliefs can be found by looking at the ground while walking the dog, and they continue to insist that it just isn’t there.

  10. #10 Bob Munck
    February 26, 2006

    Allow workers to express their Christian faith in the office and you’ll get a more industrious workforce.

    Brings to mind the darkies being allowed to sing spirituals down in their slave quarters in the evening after the day’s work is done.

  11. #11 DW
    February 26, 2006

    I’m very much in favor of making fun of religion—how often do you get to do socially valuable work that is so fun? But I have a few worries as well. For instance, we have a bet going on how long it will be before the believers in the Flying Spaghetti Monster file their papers for tax exempt status and start buying property for their churches.

  12. #12 Dale
    February 26, 2006

    DW

    You may be on to something. FSM in a hostile takeover sounds like a good thing.

  13. #13 J Bean
    February 26, 2006

    God or whatever damn it! Everybody else has all the fun. I moved to Orange County. In preparation I bought a coffee mug and bumper stickers and came loaded for bear, but when I took a job I wound up in a nest of flaming liberals. We sit around at lunch shaking our heads and agreeing with one another. It takes all the fun out of it.

  14. #14 Dustin
    February 26, 2006

    Allow workers to express their Christian faith in the office and you’ll get a more industrious workforce.

    I somehow see that as impeding my own work. More time spent arguing with smug young-earthers (and I promise, everyone who is willing to engage in this kind of self-aggrandizing dick measuring is a young-earther) is less time spent doing actual work. It isn’t that I go looking for conflicts… I’m pretty content to not talk about religion at all, and to stick to my own work. They come and find me, say something stupid, and that’s when I correct them.

    Yes, Bob, the sun is powered by fusion. In fact, I can prove that right now…

  15. #15 MJ Memphis
    February 26, 2006

    AndyS:
    “Maybe we could pass the hat and pay him to cast out the demons in the Bush administration, fairly expensive of course given the numbers.”

    Well, I bet he would give a volume discount.

    However, he really isn’t the man for the job. Those are Demons of Stupidity, and that is a job for St. Dogbert.

  16. #16 Brian
    February 26, 2006

    Let’s stop, OK? Can we please start asking pointed questions of all these rubbish spreading clowns and make them feel at least a little bit uncomfortable about their foolishness?

    I’d rather just use the office for what it is meant for – business – and leave politics, religion, anti-religion and etc right out.

  17. #17 CBBB
    February 26, 2006

    It seems like in the last few years these fundies have become much more aggressive and confrontational, trying to push religion into every area of life. Maybe it just seems that way to me because I’m following this sort of thing more these days.

  18. #18 PZ Myers
    February 26, 2006

    I’d rather just use the office for what it is meant for – business – and leave politics, religion, anti-religion and etc right out.

    Yes, same here…but that’s the problem. The other side doesn’t. When they try to turn your workplace into a prayer meeting, what do we do? Roll our eyes, maybe, politely demur, turn away. Presto: they win.

    I think we all need to more aggressively oppose this crap. It doesn’t have to be just freethinkers, either — why can’t a few more Christians tell their whirling, shouting, fainting, God-bothering blissed out brethren to STFU?

  19. #19 mark
    February 26, 2006

    Mencken described a scene such as pictured above very well in 1926:

    From the squirming and jabbering mass a young woman gradually detached herself…Her head jerked back, the veins of her neck swelled, and her fists went to her throat as if she were fighting for breath. She bent backward until she was like half a hoop. Then she suddenly snapped forward. We caught a flash of the whites of her eyes. Presently her whole body began to be convulsed–great throes that began at the shoulders and ended at the hips. She would leap to her feet, thrust her arms in the air, and then hurl herself upon the heap. Her praying flattened out into a mere delerious caterwauling.

    Maybe next week I’ll bring some snakes to the office to toss around.

  20. #20 Rey
    February 26, 2006

    MATTHEW 6:6!

    You know it used to be that being religious meant going to church every week and being charitable and loving the least of your brothers. Now it’s all about the merchandise. It’s all a big tribal sports-team mentality, and I think that’s what fuels the rise of fundamentalism. One-upmanship. “I’m more Christian than you!” “Oh yeah? Well I take everything in the bible literally!” “The New Testament? Or BOTH?” And eventually they’re painting crosses on their chests and naming their children after biblical figures. Oh yes, and pushing oppressive legislation.

    As an additional note, I think part of being a meek God-in-the-heart-and-not-plastered-all-over-the-car-bumper Christian is not calling other Christians out on their BS, because then you wouldn’t be meek and un-prideful, and non-judgement-passing anymore.

  21. #21 Axel Hein
    February 26, 2006

    My goal in life is buy the fastest road into heaven that money can buy!!

  22. #22 Brian
    February 26, 2006

    Yes, same here…but that’s the problem. The other side doesn’t. When they try to turn your workplace into a prayer meeting, what do we do? Roll our eyes, maybe, politely demur, turn away. Presto: they win.

    Time to find a new job. We’re none of us chained to our desks not forbade from improving our circumstances.

    Yes, easy to say, hard to do, I know. If you agree with the OP that people who indulge in this behaivor are loons, idiots and so on then it’s a non-optimal place to be regardless and you _should_ be moving on.

    It’s work it’s not your life. That said I work two jobs – one for pay and one for equity and fun. I’ll fight to keep the ‘for equity’ job free of nonsense because a) it dilutes my stake in the venture and b) it takes it out of the realm of ‘fun’. But the other job .. it’s just a place, ya know?

  23. #23 rob helpy-chalk
    February 26, 2006

    “Lead like Jesus” … “Do What Jesus Did.”

    But which Jesus? There are so many to choose from!

    Hippy Jesus, Apocolypse Jesus, Mystic Jesus, Iconoclast Jesus, Icon Jesus, the all-American and entirely unscriptural Self Help Jesus…

    Interestingly, almost none of them give any advice that makes any sense in the context of the workplace.

  24. #24 Todd
    February 26, 2006

    Big Bob Larson fan. I saw him do one of snakeoil shows way back before he become the world’s foremost authority on exorcism. Back then, he was the world’s foremost authority on the horrors of rock music. Most of his die hard fans, however, know him as the world’s foremost con artist and adulterer. You know you’re a circus sideshow freak when the wack jobs at Trinity Broadcasting yank your trainwreck of an act from their coveted 2am time slot.

    For cheap entertainment, his live act is definitely worth checking out.

  25. #25 CanuckRob
    February 26, 2006

    I would support direct confrontation but what if it’s your boss? Maybe a better approach would be to bring in this book to offset the jesus crap http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0671520989/ref=sib_dp_pt/002-4202128-8373614#reader-link

  26. #26 spencer
    February 26, 2006

    Time to find a new job. We’re none of us chained to our desks not forbade from improving our circumstances.

    Bullshit on that. Why should any of us be forced to go through the stress of a job search if we don’t have to – especially if the only reason we’re thinking of leaving is because of their behavior?

    Or, as the wise Michael Bolton (not related to the singer) once said, “Why should I have to change my name? He’s the one who sucks.”

  27. #27 Ed Darrell
    February 26, 2006

    So, does “Jesus Leadership” have any results to commend it as better than any of the other management fads of the past 40 years? Is “One-Minute Jesus” any better than any other one-minute manager? Is it half so effective as Six Sigma?

    Show me the earnings reports. Show me the dividendes to stockholders. Integrity often helps — but show me that this fad has any integrity at all to it, please.

    Notice that the story was not in the business section. We’ve found another field where the charlatans will do their damnedest to keep away from serious scrutiny.

    Two more observations:

    1. Medtronics? Have you looked at what they produce?
    2. Does the article mention that this sort of hokum was practiced at Enron, too?

    I smell a brewing scandal in the business community in Minneapolis.

  28. #28 John C. Randolph
    February 26, 2006

    I have no issue with people praying in the office if they want to. If they’re loud, I’d make them close the door. If they prosletize, then it becomes a problem. If they say “it’s him or me” when someone of a different religion applies for a job, then out they go.

    -jcr

  29. #29 Brian
    February 26, 2006

    Bullshit on that. Why should any of us be forced to go through the stress of a job search if we don’t have to – especially if the only reason we’re thinking of leaving is because of their behavior?

    It is – I submit – indicative of a loosing company culture that lets employees engage in behaivor as described.

    You’re not leaving because of the behaivor but because it’s a symptom of a company with problems. Go through the stress of job changing now rather than when it’s forced on you because they lost big in the market.

  30. #30 David Wilford
    February 26, 2006

    As I have yet to see a prayer that actually delivers a product, this is just so much eyewash from the Star Tribune that’s no different than stories about prayer healing people, etc.

  31. #31 Great White Wonder
    February 26, 2006

    Has anyone here heard any records by John Trubee?

    I just listened to one of his albums which includes a truly amazing “Prayer to Satan” rant.

    Great liner notes, too.

  32. #32 Great White Wonder
    February 26, 2006

    I have Bob Larson’s book “Hippies, Hindus and Rock and Roll.”

    Bob Larson is an idiot and I ever meet him I won’t hesitate to tell him so.

    But since I rarely dig through discarded monkey waste at the zoo, I don’t think I’m likely to run into the guy.

  33. #33 David Wilford
    February 26, 2006

    BTW, looking at that photo again, I think the chimpanzee must have left the room to check out job leads on CareerBuilder.com 🙂

  34. #34 Dan D
    February 26, 2006

    Jcr,

    It isn’t about whether they’re specifically bothering you with their praying or speaking in tongues or whatnot, its about how you will be left out because you don’t join in.

    You may never be overtly discriminated against, but who do you think gets the bigger raises, and who will the boss think of first for that promotion? The people who play along with the prayer sessions.

    It’s the K-street project, gone mainstream corporate america.

  35. #35 arc_legion
    February 26, 2006

    “Lead like Jesus” … “Do What Jesus Did.”

    Damn straight, I need to be doing that water to wine shit. I’d make a killing!! Fine aged 100 years in 1 minute. 1906, oh that was a great minute.

    Seriously, though, I don’t see it helping much except for that notion of building teamwork amongst your workforce, which is generally just internal PR blather. It holds no meaning for the one who intends to lead the laboror mass.

    Really, what did Jesus do? Aside from the water to wine and maybe offering people tours of the great lakes on foot, he was great at getting people to follow him. I can’t find any other reason to want Jesus in your workforce, and good old fashioned charisma and competence do the trick. That someone needs a 2000 year old dead guy to give them pointers in the modern market, well, not the soundest thinker. I’d be handing in my resignation already if I were working for that boss.

  36. #36 Dark Matter
    February 27, 2006

    From the article:

    Jeff Hagen, founder of the Hill Cities ministry, said changes in the business community help explain the rise of faith groups in the workplace and the “booming market for spirituality.”

    Americans are spending a growing percentage of their lives at work, he said, even as downsizing and outsourcing are making workplaces feel colder and more transitory than ever. In that context, a faith community in the office can provide a welcome counterweight for believers frustrated with the disconnect between Sunday services and the rest of their lives.

    “Church can be a ghetto. Even Bible study can be a ghetto,” Hagen said. “The workplace is the village we all live in. It’s where people have meaningful relationships now.”

    Maybe they should be more concerned why their employers are eating up more and
    more of the time they have set aside for a private life!

    So if this spreads, what is going to happen when the Muslim, Sikh, Scientology, Jewish, Wiccan, Raelian, etc., etc., etc., employees at companies start demanding worship time at work?…

    Sure enough, the excuses of refusal will be “Oh, we’ll have a drop in productivity, and people will start arguing about religion, and there’s not enough people in religion x to justify setting a room aside, and our Christian employees think you worship the Devil and will be offended, and blah blah blah…..”

  37. #37 wamba
    February 27, 2006

    In this morning’s Strib:
    Spiritual adviser seeks harmony of faith and work

    “God said to quit the job and jump off of this cliff,” said Evenson, a 46-year-old single parent.

  38. #38 Keith Douglas
    February 27, 2006

    Exorcisms also are often performed on the mentally ill or emotionally distraught, so there’s a sci & tech connection here too.

  39. #39 Bob Mottram
    February 27, 2006

    People at work are sometimes forced by their management to go through these kind of absurd ceremonies in the name of “team building” and so on. I know one woman who had to go on some kind of corporate “laughing therapy”, where office workers were instructed to laugh continuously for half an hour. She refused to do it (as I would too). That’s a pretty extreme case, but there are all kinds of lesser fads and fashions in the workplace (usually instigated by higher management echelons) which are equally ridiculous.

    If anyone tried to get me to “lead like jesus” I’d object. But not everyone is as strong willed as I am and most workers will just go along with anything for fear of rocking the boat or losing their jobs. Evangelists have obviously discovered this weakness and are beginning to exploit it.

  40. #40 Gray Lensman
    February 27, 2006

    Don’t they know that stuff doesn’t work under flourescent light?

  41. #41 Harry Eagar
    February 27, 2006

    I guess none of you guys work in offices. Ever hear of hostile work environment lawsuits? They’re pretty easy to win. Religion is an actionable aspect of the work environment.

    Sue ’em.

  42. #42 Bubba 'Evil Demon' Gump
    February 27, 2006

    Don’t ya just LOVE Bob’s hair…

  43. #43 jrochest
    March 3, 2006

    When I was 13 I was sent to a bible camp by my agnostic parents and I got “saved”. I spent the next 10 years involved in ever-more-psycho evangelist circles, usually joining groups because my friends did, moving from standard-issue Baptist churches to charismatic ones to a monstrously squidgy appallingly manipulative bible study group that was more or less a cult. I landed in that and stuck it out for about 3 years, before I got kicked out for ‘demonic possession’ and ‘spiritual rebellion’.

    There, thank god (no irony intended) it ended: enough meanspirited, manipulative and downright dangerous garbage went on that even I, clueless little 21 year old that I was, could recognise it for the bumpf it was. This stuff is evil: it’s social control. Of course, I’m preaching to the converted here, but honestly, it’s the foulest most manipulative shite that can be imagined. I cannot imagine what I’d do if I discovered that I was working with a bunch of spiritual Stepford Wives. I suspect it would be illegal.

    If people want to speak in tongues and pray out loud and dance in the spirit in their massive ugly churches, they may do so. I cannot stop them, and that’s as it should be. But if they arrive in my workplace and evangelize me, I will stop them if it is within my power and leave (the country if necessary) if I cannot.

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