Pharyngula

At least they admit it

Evangelists are suddenly experiencing rapid growth, and wow, are they happy about it!

“It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

What, you might wonder, could possibly be driving more people into the shoutin’ and yellin’ and hellfire churches? Why, it’s the economic downturn!

“I found it very exciting, and I called up that fellow to tell him so,” said the Rev. Don MacKintosh, a Seventh Day Adventist televangelist in California who contacted Dr. Beckworth a few weeks ago after hearing word of his paper from another preacher. “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”

Good, fervent Christians overjoyed at the poverty and hardship their congregations are suffering … I’m not surprised. Not surprised at all. And the worse the economy gets, the more these parasites will prosper.

(via Hillary)

Comments

  1. #1 Steve_C
    December 15, 2008

    I guess people figure if their praying for a new job or to win the lotto they’ll have better chances if they go to church.

    Suckers.

  2. #2 Steve_C
    December 15, 2008

    I know. They’re. I need more coffee.

  3. #3 IST
    December 15, 2008

    So fundie evangelists are excited about rapid growth in membership because people are miserable… and here I thought they actually believed they were preaching the truth. The cynical side of me (ok, the non-cynical side is more like a sliver)wonders how many church leaders honestly believe in the tripe they espouse, and how many simply pour it out because it fills their coffers.

  4. #4 DMS
    December 15, 2008

    church is just another business, i guess.
    how is this any different from owners of other businesses that see an uptick with bad times?
    oh, yeah – ministers are supposed to care for people like jesus did. there is that little discrepancy.

  5. #5 Dave
    December 15, 2008

    And the more they prosper the worse things will be and so on.

  6. #6 KH
    December 15, 2008

    Fits right in with the recent study showing that people who feel a lack of control are more likely to see “illusory patterns” (i.e. the effect of a deity) in “random or unrelated stimuli.” See http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/322/5898/115 .

  7. #7 Ibid
    December 15, 2008

    This is pretty much in keeping with what we know drives religion. When things are going well people like to take credit for how well they’re doing and give less credit to the imaginary. When they’re not doing well people take whatever action makes them feel as if they’re in control of their own life – i.e. praying.

    The Great Depression gets a lot of credit for the rebirth of religion in America.

  8. #8 Sastra
    December 15, 2008

    It’s another version of the “no atheists in foxholes” argument. When you’re broken, you look for a fix. And we religious folks are going to pretend that’s the same as a profound quest for truth.

    To people who consider questions about the existence of God or the truth of religion to be rational questions, the worst time to evaluate them is when you’re distressed, traumatized, or under some debilitating circumstances. Your judgment is likely to be impaired: you’ll jump at anything which seems to offer you some relief or help.

    The fact that theists tend to rejoice over such situations because it makes people “prime targets” for conversion says a lot about the value of such beliefs. It’s evidently easier to accept Christianity as true if you’re a little bit off your nut, or desperate enough to try anything.

    Christians often try to frame this as “your will and pride has to be broken before you discover you believe in God, and need Him.” We frame it as something like “religion is a crutch for the weak.” We’re all pretty much saying the same thing. It’s just that Christians are assuming that, if you need to believe in God, then that means God must really exist. We’re not that narcisstic.

  9. #9 Richard Wolford
    December 15, 2008

    So, let me get this straight. People are going to church because the economy is broken and the have no money; while at church, they give more of the money they don’t have.

    Uhm, wouldn’t scaling back spending and increasing the amount one saves be a better approach, or am I just a complete dolt?

  10. #10 SteveM
    December 15, 2008

    So, let me get this straight. People are going to church because the economy is broken and the have no money; while at church, they give more of the money they don’t have.
    Uhm, wouldn’t scaling back spending and increasing the amount one saves be a better approach, or am I just a complete dolt?

    Ever hear the expression, “You gotta spend money to make money”? If you’re going to convince god to fix the economy (and make you rich again), you have to grease his palm a bit with what little money you still have.

  11. #11 marty
    December 15, 2008

    There’s an article in the current Free Inquiry about this very phenomenon, or more precisely, how the opposite is also true.

    In an article called “The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved,” by Gregory S. Paul, the argument is made that faith has less to do with belief of what’s actually the truth that it does with a people’s perception of economic and social security. Paul argues that raising more people and more countries to the social standards enjoyed by Western Europe could be the catalyst that allows for religion to finally die out.

  12. #12 OctoberMermaid
    December 15, 2008

    “So, let me get this straight. People are going to church because the economy is broken and the have no money; while at church, they give more of the money they don’t have.

    Uhm, wouldn’t scaling back spending and increasing the amount one saves be a better approach, or am I just a complete dolt?”

    I come from a VERY religion family, so I’ve heard the explanation for this many times. The preachers themselves even like to repeat it: You have to store up treasure in heaven. You have to put your treasure where your REAL home is. And, of course, Christians are “just passing through” on their way to heaven, where they REALLY belong, so giving up material possessions in exchange for points in heaven is totally worth it to them.

    It’s like people who spend money on virtual goods in a video game, only without the game even existing.

  13. #13 Holbach
    December 15, 2008

    “christian cultural”? The only culture they have is what is growing in a petri dish, and even that has more forward growth to it.

  14. #14 mikespeir
    December 15, 2008

    Now all we need is a world war. That’d pack the churches–at least until a sizable portion of the population was blown away.

  15. #15 Chris N
    December 15, 2008

    Ever hear the expression, “You gotta spend money to make money”? If you’re going to convince god to fix the economy (and make you rich again), you have to grease his palm a bit with what little money you still have.

    Isn’t that putting all your eggs in one basket? You need to diversify! Just to cover all your bases, how about a religion mutual fund? 5% of the tithe goes to Yahweh, 5% to Allah, 5% to Vishu, 15% to Thor (he’s due for a comeback any day now)…

    Uhm, wouldn’t scaling back spending and increasing the amount one saves be a better approach, or am I just a complete dolt?

    That would never work.

  16. #16 Marcus Ranum
    December 15, 2008

    Richard Wolford ponders:
    So, let me get this straight. People are going to church because the economy is broken and the have no money; while at church, they give more of the money they don’t have.

    Uhm, wouldn’t scaling back spending and increasing the amount one saves be a better approach, or am I just a complete dolt?

    Take it a step farther: the obvious thing to do if the economy is down, and people are flocking to churches in despair — is to get in on the action and open your own church.

  17. #17 King Aardvark
    December 15, 2008

    It’s not actually surprising. My wife is making me attend an Alpha Course (intro to Christianity) at her church. As the lone atheist voice there, they wonder why I disbelieve. The other day, several of the group members came to the conclusion that I wasn’t Christian because I hadn’t experienced any real hardship in my life. Most of them had become Christian after experiencing some hardship, usually financial or emotional.

    This, the “no atheists in foxholes” thing all seems insane to me. Entering a faith when under duress is like grocery shopping when starving. You buy crazy things that you have to live with even after you’re no longer hungry. Those ten Salisbury steaks will reside in your freezer forever.

  18. #18 Joel
    December 15, 2008

    You know what they say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

  19. #19 Ian
    December 15, 2008

    Mega-churches provide quite a bit in terms of social services for their members. It makes a lot of sense to join one of those churches if you’re out of a job, or if you think yoou might lose one. Most churches (mega- or not) provide a sense of community. Again, when times are hard, it makes sense to shore up your social network.

    The original article says something like that:

    Dr. Beckworth, a macroeconomist, posited another theory: though expanding demographically since becoming the nation’s largest religious group in the 1990s, evangelicals as a whole still tend to be less affluent than members of mainline churches, and therefore depend on their church communities more during tough times, for material as well as spiritual support. In good times, he said, they are more likely to work on Sundays, which may explain a slower rate of growth among evangelical churches in nonrecession years.

    Msgr. Thomas McSweeney, … said the growth is fed by evangelicals’ flexibility: “Their tradition allows them to do things from the pulpit we don’t do — like ‘Hey! I need somebody to take Mrs. McSweeney to the doctor on Tuesday,’ or ‘We need volunteers at the soup kitchen tomorrow.’ “

    …But a recession also means fewer dollars in the collection basket.

    And, of course, people who are hurting look for comfort, although that wouldn’t explain that while evangelical churches grow during recessions, mainline churches don’t.

  20. #20 Steve Luzynski
    December 15, 2008

    It seems to me that the thing to do would be to go after the Catholic Church for 2000 years of back taxes.

    Barring that, at the very least, the free ride that churches get should come to an end. Their buildings occupy prime commercial real estate, let them pay property taxes on it. They get city services just like the buildings next door.

    I don’t understand why people would flock to religion with things are bad – the very fact that the world is all messed up again proves that there is no one paying attention. This would seem to me to be the perfect time to realize that *we* make our own destiny, not some nutter in the sky surrounded by half naked young boys with wings.

  21. #21 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 15, 2008

    You know what they say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

    Or the version I like better

    Turning chicken shit into chicken salad.

    But I am from the south so ….

  22. #22 CrypticLife
    December 15, 2008

    The preachers themselves even like to repeat it: You have to store up treasure in heaven.

    Ah, if there’s one thing I like about religion, it’s the lunacy of the explanations. I can completely believe the religious would go for an explanation like this. It’s just a step to the side from the ancient pharoahs bringing their treasure with them or the coins placed in the mouth for safe passage across the river of death.

  23. #23 Somnolent Aphid
    December 15, 2008

    Another example of scheudenfraude?

  24. #24 Richard Wolford
    December 15, 2008

    Ever hear the expression, “You gotta spend money to make money”?

    Heh, so apparently Yahweh is a Capitalist? Does he offer reasonable rates of return? :)

    Take it a step farther: the obvious thing to do if the economy is down, and people are flocking to churches in despair — is to get in on the action and open your own church.

    I am SO with you on this; the Esoteric Order of Dagon can certainly aide your economic woes, just ask the good Captain Obed Marsh. All we want is to have sex with your women.

    I come from a VERY religion family, so I’ve heard the explanation for this many times. The preachers themselves even like to repeat it: You have to store up treasure in heaven. You have to put your treasure where your REAL home is. And, of course, Christians are “just passing through” on their way to heaven, where they REALLY belong, so giving up material possessions in exchange for points in heaven is totally worth it to them.

    I’ve heard this same BS before; my question was always how do they get all that cash up to heaven in the first place? And if heaven is such a paradise, free from disease and famine and evil evil sex, why do we need treasures? My family is Methodist, formerly Baptist. I just never got it I guess :)

  25. #25 DaveL
    December 15, 2008

    The other day, several of the group members came to the conclusion that I wasn’t Christian because I hadn’t experienced any real hardship in my life.

    Of course. And if you had experienced “real hardship”, they would have said you had been embittered or angry at God.

    Just as they attribute the civility and normalcy of someone like Richard Dawkins to some residual effect of Christianity absorbed from society at large, while blaming the murderous rampage of Matthew Murray on the thin incursion of secular culture into his highly regimented Christian upbringing.

    Post-hoc rationalization is a wonderful thing.

  26. #26 mayhempix
    December 15, 2008

    Isn’t it nice to see predatory Evangelistic Opportunism at work?

    When Argentina had its last economic crisis around 2002 they were literally flying down here by the planeload. I know because I was on board a couple of them and once sat next to one of the senior pastors. I slowly talked him up until before he knew it he was firmly in a logic trap. His smiling mask cracked for a beat and the hate in eyes was palplable. Then he retreated back into his Jebus shell and turned and started hitting on the young naive missionary in his flock across from us.

    Now there all these store front evangelical “churches” open to the street with TV cameras and men dressed in expensive white suits dripping with gold around their necks and fingers. They want the locals to believe they are saving souls from the impotent evil clutch of the Catholic Church. Frying pan meet fire.

  27. #27 hermit
    December 15, 2008

    I guess churches are like pawn shops, a bad economy is good for business.

  28. #28 E.V.
    December 15, 2008

    Evangelical motto: It’s easier to convert the sad, starving or stupid.

  29. #29 Naked Bunny with a Whip
    December 15, 2008

    Hey, now. God has to keep those hellfires burning, and that ain’t cheap, y’know.

  30. #30 culmastadm
    December 15, 2008

    This is the kind of thing that prompted my leaving my religion. EVERYTHING was bad. If you were doing well, then you must have been greedy to get there.

    If you are broke now, then you must have sinned and need god now.

    This is all garbage.

    I would like to say that I am broke, but still recognizing religion as made up by primitive tribes, and upheld by con artists.

  31. #31 Mikael HafO
    December 15, 2008

    Baron Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach, the famous 18th century atheist, once wrote: “L’ignorance et la peur, voilà les deux pivots de toute religion.” (Ignorance and fear, those are the two pivots of all religion.)

    Interesting that the Rev. agrees :)

  32. #32 Katharine
    December 15, 2008

    I wonder why we haven’t used some of their own language against them:

    FUNDAMENTALISM IS FILTH
    HOMOPHOBES ARE SCUM
    CONSERVATIVE CHRISTOFASCISTS GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY
    GO BACK TO SAUDI ARABIA AND TAKE YOUR THEOCRACY TOO

    Aardvark – why the fuck are you married to the woman you’re married to? She sounds like a lunatic and she sounds as if she doesn’t respect you if she’s MAKING you do what you’re doing.

  33. #33 abb3w
    December 15, 2008

    Makes sense. If you’re not smart enough to find a solution to your problems on your own, you look for someone who is smart enough to explain a solution for you… or at least, smart enough to tell you something that can make you think you’ve had a solution explained. If this para-solution results in holy roller farshlugginers having an abundance of wealth handed into their “care” gratis, it’s an evolutionary advantage for allowing the core of such a culture to have someone continue to prosper even in difficult times… especially if farshlugginer is a recessive trait also allowing the farshlugginers the persuasion (as well as resources) to obtain a number of mistresses amid the flock-of-lambs.

    Though there’s probably a better Yiddish slang word for this….

  34. #34 Glen Davidson
    December 15, 2008

    God sends hardships to save people’s souls. I certainly heard that enough while growing up.

    It’s not so much the “no atheists in foxholes” idea as the Sodom and Gomorrah idea, at least when it comes to natural disasters and economic hardships. God punishes the wicked (evilutionists, atheists) for their evil ways, and the good people (occasionally even evilutionists and atheists) turn to God.

    Or in other words, it’s Pat Robertson telling Dover that they’d best not pray for deliverance if a natural disaster strikes. Wait for someone to spin this whole economic problem as punishment for “persecuting IDists,” and I believe some have already blamed it as punishment for the election of Obama.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  35. #35 windy
    December 15, 2008

    I’ve heard this same BS before; my question was always how do they get all that cash up to heaven in the first place?

    “There are several ways to send Spirit Money to one’s departed relatives — it can be thrown to the winds during the funeral procession, left on a grave at any time, or burned in ceremonial fires during the yearly Hungry Ghost Festival.”

  36. #36 porco dio
    December 15, 2008

    this topic is about as ironic as rain on your wedding day.

  37. #37 Brownian, OM
    December 15, 2008

    “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.”

    Just like pickup gurus who take advantage of women who’ve just been dumped to score a quick and easy lay!

    And I thought Jesus’ official bird was the dove, not the vulture.

  38. #38 chancelikely
    December 15, 2008

    Proof positive that religion is an inferior good, like SPAM and bus tickets.

  39. #39 Sojourner
    December 15, 2008

    Personally, I think it’s a conflict of interest.

  40. #40 Chris P
    December 15, 2008

    People in this country go to church for the networking. I remember waiting to pick my daughter up after she had gone to a Sunday school at the invitation of a friend.

    There was a guy at the door who decided he was going to introduce himself. “Hi I’m John, I’m a realtor”

    I did go to a church this weekend to listen to a concert. The rector gave a (fortunately) short speech telling us how wonderful “Gods” music was.

  41. #41 Glen Davidson
    December 15, 2008

    It’s one of those “God is behind everything” double-talking moments, of course.

    Economic prosperity (at least when they’re Xian) is due to God and is a sign of his beneficence. Economic problems are God’s punishment and a way to “purify” his people. So anything at all is god’s sign, it’s all miraculous, and greed can be condemned in a sermon preaching the gospel of wealth (well, I didn’t want all this money, but since God gave it to me…).

    And do we wonder why they don’t understand science, the evidence backing up evolution? They’re already in a “worldview” that puts all responsibility on god or the devil, one that deliberately confuses the cause and effect analyses that classical science uses. They don’t “put God to the test” because that’s evil, they’re supposed to simply accept that prosperity is god’s doing, and so are economic problems. Hence they are not going to “question god” by honestly considering the intersecting evidences of evolution. That lack of faith just invites personal economic, or other kinds of, woes.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  42. #42 Bachalon
    December 15, 2008

    Weird. I’m sort of reminded of alcoholics anonymous for some reason.

  43. #43 RamblinDude
    December 15, 2008

    There’s a special brand of testimonial in church. It the most anticipated type, the kind of vocal and weepy admission that gets everyone shouting an “Amen, Brother!”

    It’s the “I hit rock bottom” confession.

    Someone, usually a guy, tells how he was wasting his life away, being worldly and not believing in Jesus, and then when he made a complete mess of his life, then–and only then–were his eyes opened! Only then did he/she find salvation.

    Preachers love that shit. They know that Judeo-Christian dogma is lying dormant in most people ready to be exploited. They know that if they can just get the majority of people distressed enough then all that latent fear of hellfire and jesus-anxiety will surface. (And miracles! Don’t forget the miracles they promise.)

    Bad times are good for business, and the more vocal and alpha-dominate among them (like Hagee) actually try to bring about war to fuel these hysterical reactions.

  44. #44 E.V.
    December 15, 2008

    And I thought Jesus’ official bird was the dove, not the vulture.

    You forgot the cuckoo as well. Here’s hoping it becomes the dodo.

    A favorite quote from one of my dad’s old friends: I woke up the other day with a hard-on and hungry for fried chicken – I thought the Lord was calling me to be a preacher.

  45. #45 Quiet Desperation
    December 15, 2008

    Well, I’m getting a minor award, a raise and a bonus at work next month, so I guess I don’t have to go to church yet. :-)

    Hey, now. God has to keep those hellfires burning, and that ain’t cheap, y’know.

    Oh, Old Man God is actually quite the clever dick. He embedded a stellar core fragment under Hell. Should be good for another 200 million years.

  46. #46 Matt Heath
    December 15, 2008

    And, of course, people who are hurting look for comfort, although that wouldn’t explain that while evangelical churches grow during recessions, mainline churches don’t.

    Hmm the churches that get called “mainline” are the States are things like the Anglicans and Methodists, right? If they are like English Anglicans and Methodists they aren’t typically that big on offering a big simple solution that will make everything ok. It’s more “Jesus loves you and the Bible has some good stuff in but life’s still complicated and we don’t really know what you should do.” The evangelicals are much more obliging to those who really don’t want to have to think about anything for themselves any more.

  47. #47 Quiet Desperation
    December 15, 2008

    Someone, usually a guy, tells how he was wasting his life away, being worldly and not believing in Jesus,

    Hey, that sounds like me!

    and then when he made a complete mess of his life

    Ah! Now that’s the bit I managed to avoid through judicious application of critical thinking and intellect. It’s easy, really. I even managed it through years of neurochemical problems and extreme bouts of clinical depression. There’s simply no excuse for turning to imaginary pals.

  48. #48 Holbach
    December 15, 2008

    Mikael HafO @ 31

    Thanks for invoking my great mentor.

  49. #49 Kevin
    December 15, 2008

    The fact that the religious right was at the political core of the “period of rampant greed” and deserves the bulk of the credit for the current “period of rampant fear” seems not to matter to them or their new converts.

  50. #50 E.V.
    December 15, 2008

    this topic is about as ironic as rain on your wedding day.

    As comedian Sabrina Matthews pointed out – Alanis got it wrong. It would be unfortunate, but it is in no way ironic.

    Irony is naming an airport after the president who fired all the unionized air traffic controllers…

  51. #51 Ryan F Stello
    December 15, 2008

    If anything, rampant greed would help the economy.

    But I suppose they’re so far into ‘hate the world’ mode that they’ll latch onto anything to air their misgivings.

  52. #52 Don Smith
    December 15, 2008

    Speaking of the Great Depression, my Mom told me this story often. Her parents took in boarders to earn a little extra cash. My mom was heading for the bathroom to get ready for bed when she overheard the itinerant preacher couple arguing in their room. “I told you we would have made more money if we had gone to Milford,” said the wife.

    So it has always been.

  53. #53 Walton
    December 15, 2008

    If anything, rampant greed would help the economy.

    I totally agree.

  54. #54 CaptainKendrick
    December 15, 2008

    In the Bullshit Department, a businessman can’t hold a candle to a clergyman. ‘Cause I gotta tell you the truth, folks. When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told.
    Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man — living in the sky — who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!
    But He loves you.
    He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!
    — George Carlin

  55. #55 RamblinDude
    December 15, 2008

    I will say that there seems to have been a shift in recent years to the more “Positive Thinking” brand of Christianity in mega churches. Telling people that if they believe in jesus they will then–and only then–be rewarded by being able to live at their full potential (and get things) is also very seductive.

  56. #56 Marcus Ranum
    December 15, 2008

    The rector gave a (fortunately) short speech telling us how wonderful “Gods” music was.

    I ran into that, once. Some christard complimenting Handel on being “divinely inspired” to create the brilliant “Messiah” and so forth. So I asked him if I had it right – was he really praising a supreme being for being able to create little subordinate beings that created music singing his praises?

    God is such an asshole.

  57. #57 mayhempix
    December 15, 2008

    Posted by: Walton | December 15, 2008 1:50 PM
    -”If anything, rampant greed would help the economy.”
    – “I totally agree.”

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least since you worship the Free Market God.

  58. #58 Sastra
    December 15, 2008

    King Aardvark #17 wrote:

    My wife is making me attend an Alpha Course (intro to Christianity) at her church. As the lone atheist voice there, they wonder why I disbelieve.

    I bet you (and others) will enjoy this personal account and review of the Alpha Course, which was written by a good-natured atheist who recorded each session. It’s a bit long, but it starts here:

    http://alphacoursereview.wordpress.com/category/alpha-course/page/2/

  59. #59 Paul D
    December 15, 2008

    To quote “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?”:

    Hard times flush the chumps.

  60. #60 Sastra
    December 15, 2008

    re #58

    It’s in reverse order, so you need to start at the bottom, and then scroll down again and hit the ‘next’ button — and then scroll to the bottom again.

  61. #61 Ryan F Stello
    December 15, 2008

    Walton said,

    I totally agree.

    Scary.

    Though, you do realize that there are better better solutions?

  62. #62 NVattorney
    December 15, 2008

    I watched “Sicko” for the first time last night. Really liked this perspective:
    “Keeping people hopeless and pessimistic – see I think there are two ways in which people are controlled – first of all frighten people and secondly demoralize them.
    An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.” -Tony Benn (found online, no guarantee of accuracy)

    OT, I also like the following quote, courtesy Homer Simpson, misreading a Mad foldout; “The all-ighty -ollar” It’s only funny if you say it to yourself in Homerese

    But, if we taxed churches, I’d be all for tithing!

  63. #63 Interrobang
    December 15, 2008

    The other day, several of the group members came to the conclusion that I wasn’t Christian because I hadn’t experienced any real hardship in my life.

    Man, I would absolutely love to get the opportunity to swing at a fat pitch like that. YMMV, but being able to ask the smarmy so-and-sos if, say, being homeless isn’t a “real hardship” would be priceless.

  64. #64 Frank Lovell
    December 15, 2008

    PZ quotes from the article:

    It’s a wonderful time, a great evangelistic opportunity for us,” said the Rev. A. R. Bernard, founder and senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York’s largest evangelical congregation, where regulars are arriving earlier to get a seat. “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    Egad — Christian Joy about Hard Times for The People!(???)

    Honestly, makes me wanna PUKE!)

  65. #65 Lynn
    December 15, 2008

    And, little do some know that churches (like Saddleback Church, for example) will teach that you can’t expect God to “bless” you financially unless you bless Him by tithing 10 percent of your gross monthly income (before taxes and other paycheck deductions). To the church. Charities don’t count. In fact, to disobey this command is to “steal from God.” And to “distrust” and insult Him.

    No wonder church leaders are excited.

  66. #66 Brownian, OM
    December 15, 2008

    The other day, several of the group members came to the conclusion that I wasn’t Christian because I hadn’t experienced any real hardship in my life.

    Then God’s a fucking piece of shit not worthy of worship, since He chose not to send you the suffering needed to earn your Christian Merit Badge.

    Are these dipshits totally incapable of thinking their theology through to conclusion?

  67. #67 Cuttlefish, OM
    December 15, 2008

    It’s nice sometimes, to pray for God
    To intervene and save us;
    So gather all together and
    Sing praises to His name!
    It’s nice to be reminded by
    These troubles that He gave us;
    If God did not exist–why, then,
    Just who’d there be to blame?

    (oh, yeah, that’s right… atheists.)

  68. #68 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 15, 2008

    cuttlefish, made of win

  69. #69 Lee Picton
    December 15, 2008

    A missionary friend of mine (yes I have friends among the fundies), was telling me proudly a few years ago about his most satisfying conversion. A fellow who had hit that rock bottom, so would be ready to turn to Jesus. Yes, he really said that. I was appalled to the soles of my shoes, as this was the first time I had heard that rationale (I have since discovered that this is actually the approved modus operandum). I treasure my friendship of over 50 years with this man’s wife, so kept my own counsel. He, of course had no insight whatever to the fact that this predatory behavior was one of the most despicable I could imagine. Wait till the mark is the most vulnerable, then pounce. And people can’t imagine why I am atheist?

  70. #70 Philip P.
    December 15, 2008

    Maybe it’s weird for a Christian to be bringing this up, but while everyone else is attacking the churches for preying on the people hurt by the economy (and yes, they are acting like vultures and sharks, joyful that their attendence records are rising in relation to the economy falling) I’ve got something of a related thought.

    Whatever upswing in church attendence is as much due to the newcomers as it is the preachers. They (the people just now “discovering” church) are looking for a quick fix, instant gratification. Religion doesn’t offer it in material, physical goods (unless God gives you winning lottery numbers), but spending an hour or two each week with a bunch of people making you feel welcome and hearing about how God has a plan for you…that can be powerful for people. Especially when they are at a lower point than what they’re used to.

    You’ve lost your job, you’re worried about losing your house, all your friends at the bar have the same troubles and in the back of your mind you know getting drunk is only making things worse. So hey, why not go to church, try to get right with God? Even if He won’t help you right away, what with the sin and all, at least going should make you feel a bit better. Your former boss was just telling you about how his preacher was saying once that everything on Earth fades away, but you can get riches in Heaven if you get right with God. If the economy doesn’t turn around next year or the year after, you’re still set for the long term, you’re focusing on what’s really important. It doesn’t matter if you have to sell your TV and the second car you just finished paying off. Who needs material goods when you have hope for the life hereafter?

    ***

    Yes, everyone is different. Everyone has different problems, different concerns, they’ll hear different stuff at church. But Marx wasn’t wrong when he compared religion to drugs. People want to feel good, church offers it. It’s just as much on the people with that kind of mindset as it is the preachers taking advantage of them.

    Like I said, I’m a Christian, but I have little patience for people who pray simply because they have something to ask for, or they only think about God when things are going bad for them. At least atheists will deny God in good times and bad.

  71. #71 SplendidMonkey
    December 15, 2008

    Thanks for posting that Sastra @#58.

  72. #72 Tulse
    December 15, 2008

    you can’t expect God to “bless” you financially unless you bless Him by tithing 10 percent of your gross monthly income (before taxes and other paycheck deductions). To the church. Charities don’t count. In fact, to disobey this command is to “steal from God.”

    As that great theologian, James Tiberius Kirk, once said, “What does God need with a starship?” I think this principle can be extended to any notion of the Omnipotent Creator of All Things somehow needing humans to donate material wealth to Him.

  73. #73 AlanWCan
    December 15, 2008

    “I guess hard times flush the chumps.”
    —Ulysses Everett McGill (Oh Brother Where Art Thou)

  74. #74 windy
    December 15, 2008

    So, did anyone catch Cecil B. DeMille Godless Girl on TCM?

    The main character holds atheist meetings “in a shabby hall on a squalid street… where little rebels blow spitballs at the rock of ages”!!! Classic! Then she gets sent to reform school and after getting cross-shaped stigmata from an electric fence, and almost being burnt to death, she converts to Christianity. I guess that qualifies as a “hardship”.

  75. #75 Susannah
    December 15, 2008

    Lee #69;

    That’s why mission agencies are so heavily into disaster relief and medical missions. It’s all about efficiency; the “lost” are much more receptive when they are hungry and sick.

  76. #76 Philip P.
    December 15, 2008

    @74 “So, did anyone catch Cecil B. DeMille Godless Girl on TCM?

    The main character holds atheist meetings “in a shabby hall on a squalid street… where little rebels blow spitballs at the rock of ages”!!! Classic! Then she gets sent to reform school and after getting cross-shaped stigmata from an electric fence, and almost being burnt to death, she converts to Christianity. I guess that qualifies as a “hardship”.”

    The formula is pretty standard for movies back in the day, I believe even before the Hays Code. I wish I could remember the exact quote, but it was along the lines of “Six reels of sin, one reel of redemption.” Somewhat akin to how movies today need a happy ending no matter how much is dropped on the heroes for the first 95% of the film.

  77. #77 CodpieceWatch
    December 15, 2008

    Perhaps instead of praying for miracles, they should pray for the ability to see who caused this mess in the first place, and then vote accordingly the next time around.

  78. #78 Carlie
    December 15, 2008

    Man, I would absolutely love to get the opportunity to swing at a fat pitch like that. YMMV, but being able to ask the smarmy so-and-sos if, say, being homeless isn’t a “real hardship” would be priceless.

    That’s easy. Then you’re rejecting God because you’re bitter at your lot in life. See, they get you either way!

  79. #79 King Aardvark
    December 15, 2008

    Katherine, I joke that she “made me do it” – it’s good for a laugh. There was some pressure, but I wasn’t ACTUALLY forced. I was curious and needed blog material ;-) And the fuckupedness of her religiousity didn’t become apparent until after we were married. Still, other than excessive praying, religion doesn’t really make any impact on our lives.

    Sastra, I will read Mr. Butterfield’s review of the Alpha Course eagerly when I get the chance. I’m doing my own, but it’s a little briefer/rantier:
    http://inthenuts.blogspot.com/search/label/Alpha%20Course

    Brownian, not only do they not think it through, they just automatically assume that their hardships are more than mine. I like to think that I’m just better grounded than they are ;-)

  80. #80 King Aardvark
    December 15, 2008

    Oh, one more thing: it’s very hard to feel satisfied when swinging for the fences when playing against people who don’t even realize they’re playing baseball.

  81. #81 John Huey
    December 15, 2008

    This is the motivation behind the Christian Right as a political force. The CR is against the government providing safety net social services (and, of course, other social services) because it a directly undermines their efforts. Not only do people have an alternative to religious “Charity” but the psychological motivations for religion are reduced. (I put ‘Charity’ in quotes because is it really charity with it is used as a marketing tool?)

  82. #82 Brownian, OM
    December 15, 2008

    Well, I’m glad you and your wife are able to make it go, despite the differences in your worldviews, King Aardvark.

    Like I said, I’m a Christian, but I have little patience for people who pray simply because they have something to ask for, or they only think about God when things are going bad for them. At least atheists will deny God in good times and bad.

    Thanks for the perspective, Philip. As a child, I remember my family and I feeling frustration when the pews we’d sat in every Sunday of the year were full on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday with people who only showed up at those two masses out of the whole year (though I do remember going to mass one year on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday Vigil, and Easter Sunday, and thinking we were approaching some sort of God overkill.) It was nice to see the church so full, less nice to have to find five non-contiguous seats or worse, stand at the back for hours on end.

  83. #83 John Huey
    December 15, 2008

    Did George Bush intentionally drive the economy into a recession in order to promote church attendance?

    Paranoid or not paranoid enough?

  84. #84 Michael the little boot
    December 15, 2008

    As the Coen Brothers said in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”: hard times flush the chumps.

  85. #85 Mikael HafO
    December 15, 2008

    Oh, one more thing: it’s very hard to feel satisfied when swinging for the fences when playing against people who don’t even realize they’re playing baseball.

    Well, they’re playing imaginary baseball. That’s why you can see the ball, their bats or the “referee” they refer to when calling your third strike…

  86. #86 Michael the little boot
    December 15, 2008

    Oops, didn’t read down far enough. Apologies, AlanWCan @ 73!

  87. #87 Mikael HafO
    December 15, 2008

    The blockquote tags misfired in my comment above. King Aardvark said: “Oh, one more thing: it’s very hard to feel satisfied when swinging for the fences when playing against people who don’t even realize they’re playing baseball.”

    The rest is all me :)

  88. #88 ?? ?????
    December 15, 2008

    They’re just going to church because they have nothing else to occupy their time. And because they hope to make contacts at church that will help them get a job.

    One thing we don’t need more of is religious demagogues getting the unwashed masses worked up about the danger of immigrants, dark people, and literacy.

  89. #89 Mikael HafO
    December 15, 2008

    Dammit! I misspelled a key word… It should be:

    Well, they’re playing imaginary baseball. That’s why you can’t see the ball, their bats or the “referee” they refer to when calling your third strike…

  90. #90 Charlie Foxtrot
    December 15, 2008

    Well, America’s economic downturn seems to be good for the churches, but I bet what they’re REALLY hoping for is a good pandemic!
    Something nice and messy and scarey – nothing says “I need Jeebus!” like weeping sores. Something new, fresh from the Congo maybe?

    Thanks to a comment up above, now every time I see a crucifix I’m going to mentally add a vulture perched on the top.

  91. #91 Dust
    December 15, 2008

    “When people are shaken to the core, it can open doors so we can shake them down some more! Halleluah.”

    there, fixed it

  92. #92 raven
    December 15, 2008

    ?????????? The latest submovement in fundie xianity is the “prosperity ministries”. Supposedly if you follow their rules and send huge quantities of money to the televangelist, you will end up as rich as Wall Street hedge fund managers used to be.

    Doesn’t seem to be working too well. The economy is failing, people are falling into and through the social safety nets, and layoffs are ubiquotous.

    Hmmm, could it have been that the “Get Rich Quick with Jesus v.4.1″ pitch was all just nonsense? When the victims discover this, will they leave this scam for another one. Oddly enough, probably not. It was all their fault, they didn’t love jesus enough, didn’t curse gays enough, and didn’t send the preacher enough money.

  93. #93 John
    December 15, 2008

    #88 — Bingo!
    People have more free time, but less money to fill it with. They can either camp out in front of the tv until something comes along or they can get a life. Church is mostly friendly and free, or at least payment is optional, and it’s an easy target for finding some social interaction. Tavern attendance goes up, too. And witness the “revival” of book clubs, craft clubs, etc.

    People aren’t going to church because they found god hiding in the depths of hardship; they’re going because they’re desperately bored and don’t have anything better to do. Ironically, not necessarily the kind of folks who flood the tithe plate: A couple of our local churches have seen attendance skyrocket, while donations decline. They’re laying off paid staff and selling properties to keep up with the increased expenses of handling more attendees.

  94. #94 Charlie Foxtrot
    December 15, 2008

    They’re laying off paid staff and selling properties to keep up with the increased expenses of handling more attendees.

    Really???

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmm…

    Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Pinky?

  95. #95 Holbach
    December 15, 2008

    windy @ 74

    I watched “godless girl”, a movie I’ve never seen before, as the word “atheist” roused my interest, but I knew from instinct and DeMille’s religious drama what the outcome would be. The same predictable crap in the movie “Song Of Bernadette”, where the mayor is profound by saying in the beginning, “whenever religion moves forward, civilization takes two steps backward”, or words to that effect. There has never been a movie made where religion gives way to rationalism. Look at the 1950′s science fiction genre where religion is used to vanquish the alien enemy. We will never see a movie made that disparages religion, as the insane rabble will never permit it, or if it is made, will be poison at the box office by the rabble or vandalized by the devoted morons.

  96. #96 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    E.V. @28

    “Evangelical motto: It’s easier to convert the sad, starving or stupid.”

    WIN! for concise and spot on.

  97. #97 melior
    December 15, 2008

    7th Day Adventists — what a coincidence. They have a fascinating history. Their original sect leaders whipped their flocks into a white hot frenzy in the belief that Teh End (which they called the Advent) Wuz Near… several times. Each time the date approached it was moved back, again and again, until eventually the movement collapsed in the mid-1800s and splintered into several factions, of which this modern group is one.

    So when they talk about “times of fear”, we can relax — they’re experts!

  98. #98 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    This is a good thread.

    I’m reading it right now, I’ve only made it to 33.

    Katharine @ 32

    GO BACK TO SAUDI ARABIA AND TAKE YOUR THEOCRACY TOO

    Bwaahaha. Too funny.

    Better on a t-shirt?

    GO BACK TO THE MIDEAST AND TAKE YOUR THEOCRACY TOO

  99. #99 Sastra
    December 15, 2008

    DeMille”s movie Godless Girl was based on a real person. The producer bowed to public pressure to change the end — in real life, Queen Silver remained an atheist.

    Someone sent me a brief bio a couple days ago, on the anniversary of her birth:

    “The greatest contribution nonbelievers have made to the world has been the Constitution of the United States. Consider how very heretical to a religious world was the idea of a Constitution predicated on ‘We, the People.’” –Queen Silver

    On December 13, 1910, “girl philosopher” Queen Silver was born in Portland, Oregon, where her mother, Grace Verne Silver, 21, a Socialist lecturer, was stranded during a tour. At 10 days old, Queen took the first of countless railway journeys with her mother. The pair settled in Los Angeles. Starting in 1917, they and Queen’s stepfather became extras in motion pictures to supplement income. Queen was taught at home and was expected at an early age to be independent, to pay her own board and even cook her own meals. “The precocious child is the normal child,” Grace believed.

    Queen was reading Darwin and Haeckel at 7. At age 8 she delivered a series of lectures in Los Angeles, on topics including “From Star to Man.” Queen delivered them extemporaneously from notes as her mother illustrated them with stereopticon views, an event noteworthy enough to be covered by the Los Angeles Record. At age 11, Queen publicly challenged William Jennings Bryan to a debate on evolution. Bryan declined.

    The Daily News in Inglewood carried a front-page article on June 29, 1925, reporting that “Inglewood’s famous girl philosopher, talker and writer” might attend the Scopes trial and, which pictured Queen holding a chimpanzee. Queen was unable to afford the trip but 1,000 of her pamphlets were distributed during the trial.

    From 1923-1934, she published “Queen Silver’s Magazine,” a 16-page periodical with a freethought angle and a national subscription. During the Depression, Queen took seasonal office work. Starting in 1936, she became a junior typist clerk. Attending night school, she graduated from Los Angeles City College in the 1960s with an associate degree in arts. She stayed in state civil service, working as a court reporter, and retired in 1972.

    She helped to found the Los Angeles group that later became Atheists United, serving on its board, and lecturing occasionally. She was a member of many freethought and
    humanist organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Wendy McElroy published a biography, Godless Girl, after Queen’s death. D. 1998.

  100. #100 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    Bachalon @42

    “Weird. I’m sort of reminded of alcoholics anonymous for some reason.”

    hahaha. More funny shit.

  101. #101 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    @ 43

    “It’s the “I hit rock bottom” confession.”

  102. #102 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    Kevin @ 49

    Spot on.

  103. #103 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    “Irony is naming an airport after the president who fired all the unionized air traffic controllers…”

    hahaha.

  104. #104 Holbach
    December 15, 2008

    Sastra @ 99

    Thanks for the info and bio of “Godless Girl”; was not aware of the story behind the movie and Queen Silver.
    I checked a few local public libraries on line and came up with this, other than the book:

    There is a DVD titled “Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film, 1900- 1934″ that may mention the movie and the facts behind it. I’ll check it out.

    Annie Laurie Gaylor makes no mention of her in her book “Women Without Superstition: no gods- no masters;The Collected Writings Of Women Freethinkers Of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”. Nor does Susan Jacoby in her book “Freethinkers: A History Of American Secularism”.

  105. #105 kamaka
    December 15, 2008

    “Man, I would absolutely love to get the opportunity to swing at a fat pitch like that. YMMV, but being able to ask the smarmy so-and-sos if, say, being homeless isn’t a “real hardship” would be priceless.”

    Katrina was gods wrath…uh, conversion mechanism…uh, something about homosexuals…

  106. #106 Tulse
    December 15, 2008

    We will never see a movie made that disparages religion, as the insane rabble will never permit it, or if it is made, will be poison at the box office by the rabble or vandalized by the devoted morons.

    Well, there’s Life of Brian.

  107. #107 Sastra
    December 15, 2008

    Holbach #104 wrote:

    Annie Laurie Gaylor makes no mention of her in her book “Women Without Superstition: no gods- no masters;The Collected Writings Of Women Freethinkers Of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”.

    Really? The short biography I quoted from was (I think) forwarded on to me from FFRF’s calendar, and the quotation had some additional info I cut off for space:

    –Queen Silver, “Humanity’s Gain from Unbelief,” a speech delivered in her 80s and whose title was borrowed from 19th century freethinker Charles Bradlaugh. See Women Without Superstition and http://www.zetetics.com/queen/

    So someone thinks it’s in Gaylor’s book.

  108. #108 Eyeoffaith
    December 15, 2008

    They did protest and try to ban Life of Brian. It is still banned in some place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_of_Brian

  109. #109 melior
    December 16, 2008

    Good links. I especially liked this bit of the Queen:

    Circulated at the Scopes Monkey Trial

    Brief Excerpt of Pamphlet/Lecture

    Nearly a year ago William Jennings Bryan, writing in the New York Times, said to the defenders of Evolution: “Come down out of the trees and discuss the subject.” As soon as I read his challenge, I wrote an open letter to Bryan, challenging him to debate with me upon the subject of Evolution. He has never made any reply, other than to say that he will not debate with anyone who does not accept the story of creation laid down by Moses in the book of Genesis. In other words, Bryan says that he will not debate with anyone who knows more than himself. I climbed down out of my tree especially to debate with Bryan, and what do I find? I find that this only surviving troglodyte now remaining in America has gone into his hole and pulled the hole in after him.

  110. #110 Eyeoffaith
    December 16, 2008

    So W.J. Bryan would only debate people who believed exactly the same thing he believed in?? What sort of debate is that? O_o

  111. #111 RickrOll
    December 16, 2008

    Education is the answer! Speaking of which, what are the best web sites for Scripture criticisms/contradiction? Much of Skeptic’s Annoted is “Boo-harrah” theology, not really substantive for fighting with fundies. Just asking…

  112. #112 RickrOll
    December 16, 2008

    You see, there is an inquiring person:

    “Just an observation, but I’ve checked out the various sites out there claiming all these contradictions in the Bible etc. What it comes down to from what I see and read is that the explanations that easily clear up the ‘contradictions’ are always ignored or deemed wrong or irrelevant. It’s easy to see a contradiction if you leave behind the ability to listen to answers. Give me your best contradiction website. Thanks!”- A tree63fan.

  113. #113 Twin-Skies
    December 16, 2008

    We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”

    Is it just me, or does this sound disturbingly like War Profiteering…or even the GOP sales pitch?

  114. #114 windy
    December 16, 2008

    19th century freethinker Charles Bradlaugh.

    That reminds me of when Bob Bakker argued that Darwin’s refusal to support Bradlaugh when he was barred from taking his seat in the Parliament was somehow exemplary and admirable. What an asshole. (Bakker, that is; Darwin was just being a wimp)

  115. #115 Aquaria
    December 16, 2008

    It was only a few weeks ago in a post about the WSJ being a bunch of fucktards that I postulated why the “make the rich richer/poor poorer” Republicans were in bed with the Christian Right.

    It’s all about cheap labor, for both of them. They both benefit from it.

    This crowing from fundie jerkoffs looks like good proof of that.

  116. #116 Tulse
    December 16, 2008

    They did protest and try to ban Life of Brian. It is still banned in some place.

    Sure, but so is Huckleberry Finn. There is no doubt that the film was (and continues to be) a big commercial success, giving lie to the notion that any anti-religious film would be a flop.

  117. #117 Tulse
    December 16, 2008

    And while on the topic of anti-religious films, it of course should be noted that the domestic box office for Religulous is closing in on double that of Expelled.

  118. #118 RickrOll
    December 16, 2008

    King Aard @17: Tell us more as things develop. I at least would think it’s an interesting topic.

    I’ll work my way through the comments this time, instead of selfishly adding without reading further.

    Again, when times are hard, it makes sense to shore up your social network.”-Ian at #19

    Ah, socialism in the realest sense, eh? Hypocritical pigs. They say “wolves among sheep.” But snakes and pigs make a lot more metaphorical sense.

    “The other day, several of the group members came to the conclusion that I wasn’t Christian because I hadn’t experienced any real hardship in my life.”

    I’m sorry, but isn’t the reverse true as well? Non-sequiter, obviously.

    “Then God’s a fucking piece of shit not worthy of worship, since He chose not to send you the suffering needed to earn your Christian Merit Badge.”

    “Are these dipshits totally incapable of thinking their theology through to conclusion?”- Big B #66

    Ummmmmm, you new here? ;)

    Additionally, doesn’t that make God seem like an incapable fucking asshole? What, Nice, Rich, Moral non-believers cannot possibly be swayed by the Almighty? God can’t ever simply say “you’re welcome”? Sheer self-Fuck mentality+denialism=fundie evangelicals. George Carlin was truly close to the pin when he mentioned “The United Strokes of America” (even better turn-of-phrase considering the ego-masturbatory activity that he regarded in the sport)

    “Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Pinky?”- Charles Vix

    BOOOOO. It’s, “Pinky, are you pondering what I’m pondering?”
    Then Pinky (or fundie, for purposes here), “I think so brain, but ________” (insert inanity here)

    all this about Godless Girl is interesting. Nice to have a woman to look up to in this field. On that note- what were the religious persuasions of, say, Emily Dickinson?

    And I’d love to see more response to Phillip way back at #70.

    To you Phillip, you seem to be contradicting yourself. You say “what harm does it?” in consideration of going to church, but demand that people don’t make a crutch out of it? Hmm, i don’t follow. Besides, Heaven makes material things useless, a double edged sword, as that means all those “rewards” lose value after 1,000,000 years- and so does God himself.

    But honestly Phillip, i’m very impressed by the genuine quality to your words, ands you seem to be the kind of Christian (and note i don’t often capitalize the word) that would be conducive to discussion here on Pharyngula. Welcome!

  119. #119 Patrick
    December 16, 2008

    “We need to leverage this moment, because every Christian revival in this country’s history has come off a period of rampant greed and fear. That’s what we’re in today — the time of fear and greed.”

    Is this not blatant predation? This is the type of comment that needs the most publicity. Those guys say pray but mean prey.

  120. #120 RickrOll
    December 16, 2008

    “Those guys say pray but mean prey.”

    Yes, if the wors were to be changed to Ply, then that simple connection, that endless source of ammo, would evaporate. It’s not just semantics, it’s true. I saw this quote today: “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”- Napoleon. just thought i would add that. Along the same thread.

  121. #121 Philip P.
    December 16, 2008

    @118 re: @70

    The third paragraph in my initial post (#70) is a hypothetical thought process that may lead to someone going to church. Maybe I was being pat when I was writing last night, it does take a bit of effort to differentiate between people that go to church because it’s a crutch for them, because they’re asking for something or hoping this will lead to instant gratification, and those who are going to church because they honestly are thinking about God and are trying to establish a relationship with Them, and they just happen to be doing so now that things are going bad for them and they’re not locked into their standard self-obsessed, capitalist-consumption mode.

    For the people that are curious to learn about God, want to come to Them, want to be more spiritually aware in their life, I wish them the best. But there are a lot of people who seem to just be hedging their bets or going along with tradition and they never actually think about what the ramifications are if we go with the idea that God exists. It’s just ritual for them, and honestly I wonder why more people don’t do like Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters (it’s my favorite movie of his and I just watched it again recently, so it’s on my mind), look at multiple religions and what they all offer. At least Allen’s character was forthright about his fear of death being the motivation.

    I realize that most people in America will turn to Christianity because it’s the major religion in the country, it’s the one they see mentioned in all media more than any other, there’s churches everywhere. So it’s more a reflex action than anything based on consideration.

    I spend a quite a bit of time going over my own actions and mindset as a Christian, making sure I’m not just coming to God when I have something to ask for or that I’m not worrying about what will happen to me after I die. (The latter isn’t really an issue anymore. Just being in Iraq for a year now, even as a fobbit, has made me consider the reality of death to an extent that I didn’t even when I was dealing with suicidal thoughts throughout my life.)

    As a Christian (though lately I have been second-guessing if that’s truly what I am), I approach my faith as a way of understanding what may lie beyond this physical realm. Is it completely rational to believe there is anything outside this universe? No. I have no personal experience or firm evidence to support it, but it’s something I feel, and I so I try to understand that feeling. Faith and theology help quantify what has not been (or possibly cannot be, if God is truly infinite) quantified. I’m not concerned as much about getting help with struggle and adversity (there’s a simple saying, “God doesn’t throw anything at us we can’t overcome,” that I take to heart) or having morality dictated to me as I am with being right with creation.

    This is why I reject all churches and denominations, and try to carry myself as a Christian instead of getting into the habit of going to church once a week and then forgetting about it all for six days. The idea that God cannot be fully understood by humans (and the fact, which I damn well know, that God has been shaped by people to suit their own purposes) is also why I may very well move away from Christianity entirely in favor of deism or agnosticism.

    ***

    Shoot, now I’m afraid I’m sounding preachy or something. I don’t post here often, but I don’t want to get banned either. Plus it’s lunchtime, so I’m going to wrap this up now.

    In short: it’s the reasons people have for going to church that I judge, not so much when they do go.

  122. #122 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2008

    If anything, rampant greed would help the economy.
    I totally agree.

    It’s more complicated than that. Short-sighted greed would just result in another collapse, and that soon. Long-term greed is what gives you monopolies. Maintaining that balance is not easy.

    Much of Skeptic’s Annoted is “Boo-harrah” theology, not really substantive for fighting with fundies. Just asking…

    Skeptic’s Annotated pages on “what must you do to be saved” and on salvation by faith alone contain lots of contradictions on what is, in the religious mindset, the most important thing imaginable. And most of these are simply impossible to discuss away.

    I’ve made a nice compilation of these that I posted here a few months ago. I’ll look for it.

    It was only a few weeks ago in a post about the WSJ being a bunch of fucktards that I postulated why the “make the rich richer/poor poorer” Republicans were in bed with the Christian Right.

    It’s all about cheap labor, for both of them. They both benefit from it.

    Google “cheap-labor conservatives”.

  123. #123 Michael Fonda
    December 16, 2008

    I think people here are agreeing with the premise of the opportunistic evangelical more than is actually warranted. Religion might get more converts during a crisis in the short term but if the crisis goes on and things don’t improve so that the rewards promised globally fail to materialize individually that actually hurts religion. Religion (at least the American Evangelical brand) promises cohesion, unity and an improvement in one’s life. Extended crisis cause anarchy, division and failure. In the long term then, crisis often causes the scales to fall from believers’ eyes, when things don’t work out as advertised. Skeptical and sarcastic characters exploded in movies during the Great Depression.

    Republicans branded themselves as the party of wealth and faith. When one goes that can’t be healthy for the other.

  124. #124 Nick Gotts
    December 16, 2008

    I’m not worrying about what will happen to me after I die. – Philip P

    You can stop worrying! Nothing will happen to you after you die, any more than anything happened to you before you were conceived.

  125. #125 Philip P.
    December 16, 2008

    @124

    I just said I’m NOT worrying. :p

    Akin to Pascal’s Wager, if there is nothing after death I won’t be able to realize it. I accept that.

  126. #126 Nick Gotts, OM
    December 16, 2008

    Philip P.,
    I took your “not” to be a typo, as its inclusion made nonsense of what you were saying. The point is, there is absolutely no reason to believe there is anything after death. It makes as much sense to worry that the fairies will steal your vital organs while you sleep.

  127. #127 Tulse
    December 16, 2008

    It makes as much sense to worry that the fairies will steal your vital organs while you sleep.

    Great, Nick, give me insomnia.

  128. #128 Philip P.
    December 16, 2008

    @126

    It’s not the organs being stolen, it’s our precious bodily fluids. Floride in the drinking water is weakening our natural electro-magnetic fields, allowing the fairies to penetrate our personal space with their Anti-Matter Dehydrators that they bought from the Chinese.

    And I’m pretty sure Islamofascism is part of the equation, but not how yet.

    ***

    Getting slightly more serious, how would I typo ‘not’? And how does saying I’m not worried about dying make everything else I was saying nonsense? I thought I was explaining my stance pretty coherently, but maybe not…

  129. #129 Kemist
    December 16, 2008

    Phillip @ 118: That’s a kind of faith I can respect (even though I am quite far towards atheism myself). Some here will maybe accuse you of inconsistency, but I’ve found, in my relatively short experience of life, that too much consistency is not very good for humans. It has the nasty tendency of making them psychopathic.

    I can recognize myself from a few years ago in what you’re saying (not that it means anything for your faith). I did explore other religions and had a certain attraction at some point for buddhism (my cousin is on his way to become a full-fledged tibetan buddhist monk and gives classes & conferences on the subject). I respect those who go along these experiences as a private and personnal thing.

    I am not american and I must say that, even with my christian (catholic) upbringing, I find american christianity (which I discovered in great part on this blog) quite alien. It has almost nothing to do, beyond “God” and “Jesus”, with what I was raised in, which values charity, tolerance and non-violence.

    I have never heard an anti-gay or anti-abortion sermon in all the time I went to church. We were encouraged to “act like christians” all year round towards our neighbors and to give money to charities. I can’t even understand where the “gospel of prosperity” comes from. Such a thing would be seen as very blasphemous in my former church.

    But yes, the churches were always a little fuller following something bad happening. Membership was about the same, but practice picked up. I think this has as much to do with “faith” (as in the need to get an after-life insurance) as it has to do with the need for we humans to huddle together in difficult times. Deep down, we know we are stronger together.

  130. #130 Nick Gotts
    December 16, 2008

    Philip P.
    making sure I’m not just coming to God when I have something to ask for or that I’m not worrying about what will happen to me after I die

    This is coherent, except that “or” should surely be “and”. I read it as:

    making sure I’m not just coming to God when I have something to ask for or am worrying about what will happen to me after I die,
    with a spurious “not” between “am” and “worrying”. So I understood what you were saying, in any case.

    Thanks for the “PBF” fantasy – but really, belief in an afterlife is no more rational than the beliefs of General Jack D. Ripper. Both beliefs could be true, but there’s no reason to think they are – it’s only our cultural background that makes the first seem more plausible than the second.

  131. #131 KRiS
    December 16, 2008

    #18
    I prefer the 3rd Rock From the Sun version:

    “When life hands you lemons, just shut up and eat the damn lemon.”

  132. #132 breakerslion
    December 16, 2008

    Wherever you find a drowning person, ready to grasp at straws, there you will also find the clergy offering up a cement life preserver.

  133. #133 Ryan F Stello
    December 16, 2008

    David M., OM (#122) noted,

    It’s more complicated than that. Short-sighted greed would just result in another collapse, and that soon. Long-term greed is what gives you monopolies. Maintaining that balance is not easy.

    That’s where I was leading into for Walton back at #61, if he actually stuck around to converse (I said it first as a joke about Xian inconsistency and didn’t realize someone might take it seriously).

    At any rate, yes, rampant greed would lead to collapse again quickly because people don’t have the resources to support desire, which leads to borrowing more than they can maintain. Add on top of that predatory lending agencies, and you get what we’re now going through, for the most part.

    Seems to me that on top of savings education, a solution is to support the middle class better by eliminating concerns over basic needs like health care, assuming the same or better quality in care can be maintained.

    The idea being that once needs are met, confidence can increase, but what do I know? I’m not an economist.

    I know that that’s all secondary to this thread, but I wanted to be clearer than before.

  134. #134 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2008

    I said it first as a joke about Xian inconsistency and didn’t realize someone might take it seriously

    This is the Internet. If I weren’t too lazy, I could you point to literally hundreds of people saying precisely what you said and actually meaning it. Ebert’s Fallacy ( = Poe’s Law: the fallacy to believe there is something so stupid that no creationist would believe it) doesn’t only apply to creationists.

    Unsurprisingly, therefore, I’ve seen dead obvious parodies being taken seriously by bright people on the Internet.

  135. #135 Philip P.
    December 16, 2008

    @130 I think the belief in the afterlife goes beyond anything cultural. The idea of the soul or higher being isn’t just American/Western, you can find it other cultures almost anywhere in the world. I think its prevelance is due less to the social institution of any religion and more the basic human act of viewing ourselves as above nature, above all the animals that we have until recently seen ourselves as being more intelligent, more aware, more expressive, more introspective than.

    And there must be a reason we’re “special” like that. Before science it was up to the myth and superstition of any culture to explain it, and they all invariably showed how man was created differently from the animals (are there any myths analogous to evolution’s thesis of common ancestry?). If anything led to the idea of the soul, it would be mankind’s awareness of itself, and the ancient (wrong) belief that we had it to an extent that no other animal did.

    It’s not that strange that once we have the idea of the soul, that man is greater than nature, we would then have people thinking that man is meant for something more than to live X years, die, and that’s it.

    I’m getting nit-picky here, I realize. Actually, learning about early beliefs in the soul and afterlife in various ancient cultures would be pretty interesting…

    @129

    I was born and raised in San Jose and was living in San Francisco before I enlisted. I attended church as a child and then briefly as an adult (I mention above I don’t go to church anymore). Given that it was in California I’m not surprised that there wasn’t much talk about homophobia or abortion, just basic Love Thy Neighbor goodness (if a bit bland).

    American Evangelism, the main force for gay-bashing and pulpit politicizing, is a very weird, very scary force. They’re easily the most vocal Christian organizations, so yeah, you can follow this blog or any news about Pat Robertson and other big-name preachers and you’ll see AE in force.

    But they’re not all crazy. If you have a strong stomach and A LOT of free time, I recommend checking out slacktivist.typepad.com, and go through his Left Behind section. He’s an evangelical, has been for years, but he’s not a gospel-of-prosperity/ultra-right-wing Christian. The main draw on his blog is an ongoing look at the Left Behind series of books. He spent almost five years going through the first book page by page, and now he’s going through the movie adaptation of it. He takes LaHaye and Jenkins to task on everything, from the theology they espouse to their interpretation of Revelation to the basic fundamentals of writing (plot, character, etc.). Left Behind is one of the worst books ever written, easily, and he tears it to pieces as it deserves.

    But be warned: while he has all the posts related to the book in one section (they’re organized backwards, just so you know), they are long. I saved it all to a word document and it was over 500 pages (with all the quotes from the book). Like I said, you need a lot of free time to invest, but it’s worth it if you’re at all curious about how American Evangelicals view God, Jesus, America, and sinners.

    ***

    I am interested in studying various Eastern religions, and I have some books in storage that I plan on reading to get a basic education in Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, etc. I don’t know how much of it I’ll accept, but with my more nebulous Christianity right now I might be less reticent than I would have earlier this year, when I first got the idea and bought the books. I won’t write off the idea that something there might speak to me, make sense (rather than just appealing to me) that I can take with me for the rest of my life.

  136. #136 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 16, 2008

    I threatened:

    Skeptic’s Annotated pages on “what must you do to be saved” and on salvation by faith alone contain lots of contradictions on what is, in the religious mindset, the most important thing imaginable. And most of these are simply impossible to discuss away.

    I’ve made a nice compilation of these that I posted here a few months ago. I’ll look for it.

    Here goes. The originals, which I’ve stitched together and slightly modified, are in this thread from March, comments 325, 329 and 340 (though you should read the rest of the thread anyway… :^) ).

    ============================================================

    First of all, there are insane amounts of contradictions in the Bible, but most of them can simply be brushed aside by believers. For example, this contradiction won’t make anyone lose sleep, except maybe people who try very hard to be literalists: (emphasis added)

    2 Samuel 6:6
    And when they came to Nachon‘s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him.

    1 Chronicles 13:9
    And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Childon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him.

    People who don’t believe they are literalists can simply brush this difference aside as meaningless in the grand scheme of things, as in “the Bible teaches the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go”. And besides, in this case it’s very easy to make up a completely untestable story on how Nachon and Childon might actually be the same, and so on.

    Or take this:

    Exodus 34:1
    And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.

    Exodus 34:27-28
    And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

    Well, whether God writes the second set of 10 commandments himself or dictates them to Moses, what difference does that really make?

    But even on important things, even on the most important issue of all — eternal bliss vs eternal damnation –, the Bible contradicts itself, and that not just once, and not even just between different books. To live with these contradictions you have to get very far from a literalist, so far that it probably becomes indistinguishable from picking & choosing.

    Almost all readers will be familiar with the idea of salvation by faith alone. Let’s ignore the Old Testament, which obviously never says faith in Jesus is required for anything. The New Testament says salvation is by faith alone 10 times, but apart from this it also proclaims…

    Righteousness as a necessary condition:

    Matthew 5:20
    Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    So perhaps salvation by faith, but not by faith alone.

    Words as necessary and sufficient:

    Matthew 12:37
    For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

    Note that Matthew (if not Jesus himself, whose words Matthew claims to record) contradicts himself here: first righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees is necessary, then words alone suffice.

    This quote might be construed as explaining which words are the right ones:

    Acts 2:21
    Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    Endurance all the way to the end of the world as necessary and sufficient condition:

    Matthew 10:22
    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

    Matthew 24:13
    But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

    Mark 13:13
    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

    Matthew contradicting himself again. And just wait for Mark…

    Not judging as a sufficient and forgiving as a necessary condition:

    Matthew 7:1-2
    Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    Luke 6:37-38
    Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

    OK, maybe that’s not about salvation, but about life on Earth… so maybe I can spare Matthew yet another accusation of contradiction…

    Works as necessary and sufficient:

    Matthew 16:27
    For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

    Matthew 19:17
    If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.

    Matthew 25:21-46
    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

    Matthew contradicting himself some more, for real this time.

    (Luke does not contradict himself, if we kindly ignore 6:37-38, though perhaps that’s because he touches the question only once:

    Luke 10:26-28
    He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

    Love may or may not be a work, though it sure isn’t faith.)

    Then let’s skip the Gospel of John (see below) and turn straight to Paul. The Letter to the Romans preaches salvation by faith alone no less than four times, and contains two additional verses (3:20, 4:2) that tell us that whatever is necessary or sufficient for salvation, it isn’t works — but it nevertheless contradicts itself by containing this passage:

    Romans 2:5-13
    But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    The Second Letter to the Corinthians is entirely on the side of salvation by works alone:

    2 Corinthians 5:10
    For we must all appear before the jugment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

    2 Corinthians 11:13-15
    For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

    Same for the Letter to the Philippians:

    Philippians 2:12
    Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

    And for the First Letter to Timothy, although only a single work alone is sufficient here — for women:

    1 Timothy 2:14-15
    And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing.

    Peter agrees on salvation by works alone:

    1 Peter 1:17
    [...] the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work [...]

    And so does the Revelation to John:

    Revelation 2:23
    I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

    Revelation 20:12-13
    And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

    Revelation 22:14
    Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.

    Pretty unambiguous. (Well. Revelation 14:12 does mention explicitly that the saints have faith: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” But perhaps the faith wasn’t necessary and is just a nice addition — who knows… Doesn’t really sound like it was optional, though. But then, Revelation 14:3-5 mentions that the saints are virgin males: “And they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Is that necessary after all? Or is it just a very, very strange coincidence — people are saved for whatever other reasons, and then it later turns out they all happen to be virgin males? ~:-| Either way, it contradicts salvation by childbirth — 1 Timothy 2:14-15, see above. It does, however, fit nicely with predestination, see below. Har, har.)

    Lack of bad works as necessary:

    1 Corinthians 6:9-10
    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    Keep in mind that having done good works and not having done bad works is not the same; it’s possible to do both or neither.

    Faith and works as necessary conditions each and as sufficient together, though it’s only implied, not made explicit, that faith is necessary:

    Matthew 7:21
    Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Note how almost explicitly this contradicts Acts 2:21, see above. Oops: “the name of the Lord” (Acts) isn’t “Lord” (Matthew). I guess that resolves the apparent contradiction, then.

    Apologists who believe in salvation by faith alone often claim that James 2:17 (“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”) means that works are a symptom of faith, a rather inevitable consequence (the exact opposite, interestingly, of John 3:19-21 and 5:24, see below); but let’s read the context, which does not support the silent assumption that faith automatically lives and is never alone — instead, it basically restates Matthew 7:21 (see above) in more words:

    James 2:14-19
    What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

    Got that? James openly mocks the idea of salvation by faith alone: the devils believe and are not saved, so that alone can’t be it. And James isn’t even done yet:

    James 2:20-26
    But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    This needs no comment.

    (Which shall not stop me from commenting anyway upon the fact that James contradicts Paul here, who answers James’s question “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” quite literally by “hell, no”:

    Romans 4:2-5
    For if Abraham were justified by works he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

    BTW, Paul also ascribes more wordly blessings upon Abraham as being due to faith alone:

    Romans 4:13
    For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

    I’d call for a celebrity deathmatch if Paul hadn’t already contradicted himself in that very same letter, see above.)

    Faith and baptism as necessary each and sufficient together:

    Mark 16:16
    He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

    Mark contradicting himself (see above).

    Mercy and what seems to be baptism as necessary each and sufficient together, though one might speculate on causal connections between the two:

    Titus 3:5
    Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

    Words and faith as necessary each and sufficient together:

    The Letter to the Romans already contradicts itself — here’s a third opinion in the same letter:

    Romans 10:9
    If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

    Mind you: it’s not enough if you believe, you also have to say it.

    Predestination as necessary and sufficient:

    Calvin, too, had a Biblical basis for his abhorrent doctrine:

    Matthew 22:14
    For many are called, but few are chosen.

    Romans 8:30
    Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

    Yep, Matthew and Romans yet again.

    Poverty as necessary:

    Matthew 19:23-24
    Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    Matthew, unsurprisingly.

    The utter mess that is the Gospel of John:

    To be fair, I haven’t counted if John contradicts himself more often than Matthew or the Letter to the Romans, but be that as it may, John contradicts himself all the time:

    John 3:3-7
    Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

    John 3:16-18
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    John 3:19-21
    And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

    John 3:36
    He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

    John 5:24
    But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

    John 5:29
    And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

    John 6:37
    All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

    Salvation by being born again (which Southern Baptists seem to believe means “telling everyone who wants to hear it, and then some, that you are born again”, but that seems to be ignoring 3:4 and 3:5), faith alone, faith which is a symptom of works, faith alone, faith which is a symptom of works, works alone, and what seems to be a combination of predestination and faith (perhaps faith due to predestination, or the other way around, who knows), in this order. Neat. Note especially the switch from 3:18 to 3:19.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you: There is no Biblical literalist, no, not one.

    ============================================================

    If you read the original thread, you’ll notice I was promised a reply in comment 394. You’ll also notice it never came.

  137. #137 Nathty Pathty
    December 17, 2008

    Sastra #58

    Thanks for the link to that guy’s blog:

    http://alphacoursereview.wordpress.com/category/alpha-course/page/2/,

    I’ve just read through the whole thing in one sitting and I admire his ability to refrain from bitch slapping them. The discussions he had in each session are exactly the reason I don’t bother discussing religion with the religious anymore. They don’t pay attention to what they’re saying and when you catch them contradicting themselves it’s like they hit a reset button to wipe any memory of what just happened.

    Great stuff.

  138. #138 RickrOll
    December 17, 2008

    David Marjanovi? OM @136: You are an Anti-Godsend! This…is perfect *wringing gloved hands*

    HA HA HA HA HA hahh HAAhh Ha HA (very, very maniacal)

    you see the problem was put forth By: tree63fan on Suddenly Atheist’s About page:

    Rick, just an observation, but I’ve checked out the various sites out there claiming all these contradictions in the Bible etc. What it comes down to from what I see and read is that the explanations that easily clear up the ‘contradictions’ are always ignored or deemed wrong or irrelevant. It’s easy to see a contradiction if you leave behind the ability to listen to answers. Give me your best contradiction website. Thanks!

    Problem solved. Thanks again, David. You are a brilliant source of inspiration and knowledge. Oh, and it might interest you some to refute this man: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUXQmOaCzkI&
    He knows his Hebrew Apparently. a good challenge.