Pharyngula

America’s Next Religion!!!

On Sunday, I was stuck on a long boring drive — there is no scenery between Winnipeg and Morris, only a pale gray void with wisps of snow blowing through it — and was thinking about some of the conversations I’d had the night before. I was a bit envious. My own upbringing in religion was rather tepid, an exposure to bland liberal Lutheranism of the Scandinavian Phlegmatic sect, and had no drama at all to it, and was more like a Unitarian Universalist church with a historical creed attached to it that no one cared much about. Yet here I’d been talking with ex-fundamentalist ex-Mennonites, people who’d had a religion that was like a hammer to the cranium. The fellow who had shown signs of thinking as a teenager, and whose older brother therefore schemed to do him a favor and kill him in his sleep before he became a hell-bound apostate ought to win some sort of prize.

So I was pondering why some faiths seem to be so bland and others so ferocious, and I had to think that, at least in Western countries, a period as a state religion had to have some moderating effect. My Swedish forebears, for instance, were mostly Catholic in the 15th century, and switched to Lutheran in the 16th. Why? Because they had the principle that whatever the faith of the king, that was the faith of the nation. That’s a concept that’s a little weird to people who have it dunned into them that their particular faith is the one true path to God and heaven, since apparently which faith is the right one can be changed over the course of a coronation. Sweden went through that switch, and not only that, but shortly afterwards Gustavus Adolphus hands people pikes and muskets, marches them off to Germany, and has them killing and being killed for their new version of God (and for mercantile interests in the Baltic states, but that probably wasn’t played up among the troops much).

It had to instill a little cynicism in the people.

Anyway, I was just thinking that it sure would be nice if the US had an official state religion, just because it would be such an effective way of making religion irrelevant. However, we couldn’t do it the old Swedish way, and make the religion of the president the state religion — our political campaigns are already too pious, and the thought of turning them into religious wars that made faith even more important was too much to bear. The big obstacle to establishing an American state religion (besides the first amendment, and the Republicans don’t care about that anyway) is deciding which religion it would be. And that’s where I had an epiphany.

Let’s pick the official US state religion with a game show. Sure, it would be shallow, loud, flashy, and would pander to the lowest common denominator of the population…but can you imagine anything more American? And it would make money! Even more American!

We’d do it in a program that would air over the course of several months. In the first phase, we’d collect entrants; the larger sects, the Catholics, the Southern Baptists, the Mormons, the Episcopalians, etc., would of course get a spot just because of their numbers and popularity, but to be truly representative, a wide selection of smaller, edgier religions ought to get a shot, too. A panel of celebrity judges would travel to major American cities and have auditions, in which representatives of various faiths in the region would show up and give a brief spiel about their beliefs and put on a demonstration of what’s so cool about their particular practices. They would be judged on entertainment value and local color, and only the best show would move on to the next level.

The celebrity judges would be important. The panel should consist of a curmudgeonly atheist who believes in nothing, a ditzy, New Agey bit of fluff who believes in everything, and some wobbly agnostic who doesn’t know what to think. Christopher Hitchens must be the atheist judge; someone like Robert Wright or Ariana Huffington can be the ditz judge (Huffington would be excellent just for the accent); and the agnostic judge would be tougher, since they tend to be much more low profile, but perhaps we can just trawl a few bars for unemployed Ph.D.s in philosophy. All he has to do is bawl, “Why am I here?” now and then, so those qualifications should do.

The main competition would consist of multiple televised rounds. There would be a division of skills, so one round might be musical, with demonstrations of their singing or dancing or babbling ability; another might be on dogma, with succinct summaries of what their religion can do for and demands of the practitioner; there could be gladiatorial rounds, where top athletes of each religion pray for god’s aid in sporting events, and the loser drops out and goes home. Some rounds would be judged by the celebrity panel, while others could be judged by call-in votes.

We could also have tests of power. At the beginning of the competition, each religion could be assigned by chance a dying child, and the adherents would be expected to pray mightily for their kid. This could lead to more drama — we might have occasional interruptions, as the announcer intones, “We are sorry to report that little Timmy Robinson has died. The Methodists have no power here, and will be going home.” Conversely, if one of the children has a miraculous remission, the prayer team for that child could be automatically advanced to the next round.

You might argue that the atheists would have an edge, because instead of prayer they’d be sending money to the best doctors and hospitals and getting the child the best medical care possible. Atheism is not a religion, however, so they won’t be in the competition.

Another concern you might have is that there is no way the contestants could be judged objectively. One property of religion is that it encourages tribal loyalty, so even if the gospel stylings of the African-American Baptist church have even the godless dancing in the aisles, all of the Catholics will still vote for the droning off-key old hymns of their congregation. That’s OK! We should expect some bias in favor of the numerically superior dogmas, and it’s fair that the more numerous faiths have an edge in becoming America’s next religion. That’s because the main competition will only serve to winnow down the contestants to a dozen or two, and the final winner will be determined entirely by a lottery. Knowing the American people, charismatic underdogs will make it to the final round alongside the stable favorites.

Think of the excitement, and the ratings, that the final show will get! Chits, each with the name and religious symbol of the surviving contestants, will tumble about in a basket, and then an attractive starlet with very large breasts will reach in, pull out one, and hand it to a bronzed macho star with very large teeth, who will make the final announcement: “America, we are a SCIENTOLOGY NATION!”, or whatever religion wins.

Note that since we are a nation tolerant of many faiths, American citizens will not be required to convert to that faith. It just means that on all official pronouncements and legal documents, the government will declare itself officially an X nation, where X is whatever religion won. All opening prayers to congress will be delivered by a representative of that religion; all military chaplains will be required to be practitioners. You will also be able to sue all politicians and pundits who declare that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian nation without specifying the winning faith, because obviously that is a slight to that triumphant religion.

There will also be a monetary gain. The winning religion should be granted a substantial sum of money, say $100 million dollars, to be used freely in any way they see fit: it can be used to repair decaying churches, buy air time for proselytizing ads, pay off lawsuits to parents of molested children, or even buy wetsuits and dildoes for the entire priesthood. We won’t care, we won’t pay any attention, it’s simply their fairly earned winnings. Most importantly, as the official state religion, all of their activities will be tax exempt.

Oh, that was the sneaky part. All the loser religions will no longer be recognized by the government, and will lose all their tax exemptions. That’s where we make the big profits off this scheme.

Just to be generous, though, there will be an easy loophole. Churches can freely convert to the new official religion and gain the tax exemption back. All those churches with only the vaguest theological foundation, and which are really just placeholders to service their leaders, will not be harmed in any way; Joel Osteen and Rick Warren will continue to rake in the moolah, even if it is as the Saddleback Church of the Sub-genius or as Lubavitcher Rabbi Joel Osteen.

Now wait! I’m not done! I had another epiphany that turns this whole idea into a major revelation of brilliant genius that will change the whole future of humanity.

We do this every year.

This is not a one shot deal that establishes one official American church for ever and ever. It’s a process that we will go through every year. We will regularly change our state religion. No faith can slack off; they all have to muster their best game to serve their congregations and gather the talent and the votes to be competitive. It will all be very Darwinian.

But there’s another cunning bit to the scheme. This is not a contest that will simply be won by whoever has the largest membership, so it won’t lead to a single religion simply dominating every year, and strengthening its grip with each win. Because this is going through the most frivolous of media, making an appeal to popularity on the basis of short-attention-span glitz, there will be a definite edge given to novelty. The Red Queen hypothesis will apply, and we’ll be churning through lots of religions, one after the other.

It’s going to be great. We’ll either turn religion into a trivia question, or we will select the most virulently appealing faith of all time into existence. Either way is going to be much more interesting than what we’ve got now.

We just have to persuade the government to try it.

Comments

  1. #1 JackC
    January 12, 2010

    Who are you and what have you done with our kind host?

    JC

  2. #2 PaleGreenPants
    January 12, 2010

    That’s alot of words there, PZ. Must have been a long drive.

  3. #3 Carlie
    January 12, 2010

    Already been done, although on a much smaller basis.

  4. #4 rob
    January 12, 2010

    i suggest using Richard Dawson as the emcee for the show–in the style of Damon Killian from The Running Man.

  5. #5 Capital Dan
    January 12, 2010

    That’s right. Idol starts tonight.

  6. #6 MetzO'Magic
    January 12, 2010

    I love it. This is just *so* democratic. Even a religion with one adherent1 (me) will have a chance.

    1I started my own religion a few years ago, but I haven’t been as successful as L. Ron Hubbard was. Guess I’m doin’ it wrong :-\

  7. #7 --PatF
    January 12, 2010

    This gives new meaning to the phrase American Idol.

  8. #8 dnebdal.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    That’s a hilarious, fantastic idea, and one I would love to see implemented. :)

    (Not here, though – I’m in one of those Scandinavian Lutheran countries already. The church here is about as interesting and active as a stale bread, just the way I’d prefer it to stay.)

  9. #9 MaleficVTwin
    January 12, 2010

    The fellow who had shown signs of thinking as a teenager, and whose older brother therefore schemed to do him a favor and kill him in his sleep before he became a hell-bound apostate

    Could you possibly expand on that tale a bit? I am intrigued.

  10. #10 Rog
    January 12, 2010

    I love this post most of all for the delicious quote mining it provides:

    “it sure would be nice if the US had an official state religion” – PZ Myers

    “America, we are a SCIENTOLOGY NATION!” – PZ Myers

    “religion should be granted a substantial sum of money, say $100 million dollars, to be used freely in any way they see fit” – PZ Myers

  11. #11 Steven Mading
    January 12, 2010

    American False Idols.

    Something in me relishes the idea of Simon Cowell hearing the full explanation of a religion and then saying, “That was just awful rubbish. Worst epistemology ever. You’re wasting my time.”

  12. #12 Michelle R
    January 12, 2010

    I can see it now! A crowd full of screaming hollywood celebrities, nuns and monks! It’ll be WONDERFUL

  13. #13 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    (Not here, though – I’m in one of those Scandinavian Lutheran countries already. The church here is about as interesting and active as a stale bread, just the way I’d prefer it to stay.)

    Is there no escape from the wafer talk?

  14. #14 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    No whammies, no whammies, no whammies, STOP!

  15. #15 Ralph
    January 12, 2010

    This is such a great idea. I was laughing so hard at this

  16. #16 MaleficVTwin
    January 12, 2010

    @ Rog #10

    Oh, crap. You know they’d do it, too.

  17. #17 TransitionalForm
    January 12, 2010

    Brilliant Idea! I don’t like the part where they get the huge stack of money, though. But it’s a concept to ponder about.

    I’d like to adapt your Show-Concept for german television. If the church would get it’s huge stack of money from the show, we would save many millions of Euros in Taxmoney.

    Because over here, the Government funds the Churches, it’s people and the people that work in the “official charity branches” of the Church. Church Schools, Kindergartens etc. are mostly funded with Taxmoney, even if you are not a member of the church. I am an Atheist for many years and i am not a member of any Church anymore, which saves me from paying the so called “church tax.” But even now, parts of my Taxes are used to fund the churches and its “branches.”

    I guess, using that TV-Show Concept would save the german population huge amounts of Taxes.

    english is not my first language, so please forgive me if i sound like i’ve got a case of “Commenting Tourette.” :-)

  18. #18 Sven DiMilo
    January 12, 2010

    Yes, excellent idea. “American Icon”? “American Creed”? “What’s My Sect?”

    All he has to do is bawl, “Why am I here?” now and then

    You can get a retired Admiral for that.

    buy wetsuits and dildoes for the entire priesthood

    *spews mouthful of coffee all over the fucking place*

  19. #19 destlund
    January 12, 2010

    “America, we are a SCIENTOLOGY NATION!”

    Jeez, PZ, that’s the first time you’ve really spooked me. Thinking about the inverse of your premise, I wonder to what extent our founders’ vision of a truly secular state enabled our nation to become such a roiling mess of anti-enlightenment religious zeal, with the most terrifying and oppressive flavors gaining the most prominence, despite the fact that they are the most at odds with our democratic ideals…

  20. #20 Kausik Datta
    January 12, 2010

    Let’s pick the official US state religion with a game show. Sure, it would be shallow, loud, flashy, and would pander to the lowest common denominator of the population?but can you imagine anything more American? And it would make money! Even more American!

    But I insist that we start with an internet poll, the prized and proven technique to muster public opinion.

    Also, the official state religion must have as its motto, “If you are not one of us, you are one of them.”

    But there’s another cunning bit to the scheme.

    A cunning plan? That’s so reminiscent of Blackadder!

  21. #21 Sastra
    January 12, 2010

    I suspect the winning religion would always be the one that blathered on the most vaguely about their “spirituality” resting in the heart of all the other religions. This means that Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and you-name-it would all be constantly reassured that they’re already members; they just express God in a different way. It’s all good.

    Both the faith-is-ever-so-nice folks and the shrewd politicians would vote for this religion out of a sense of relief and self-preservation. In a fair contest, the Unitarian Universalists win out.

  22. #22 Kausik Datta
    January 12, 2010

    Rutee:

    No whammies, no whammies, no whammies, STOP!

    ROTFLMAO. How very apt!

  23. #23 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    FESTIVUS!

  24. #24 Stogoe
    January 12, 2010

    I would love to see Rick Warren convert to Discordianism.

  25. #25 Glen Davidson
    January 12, 2010

    Does Darwinism get to play?

    How about Newtonism and Einsteinism?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  26. #26 SEF
    January 12, 2010

    It had to instill a little cynicism in the people.

    The English had similar royal religion swap-overs and the example of The Vicar Of Bray to fuel their cynicism.

  27. #27 Tor Bertin
    January 12, 2010

    Doesn’t quite work for Buddhists Sastra, since they (usually) don’t recognize a god.

  28. #28 Glen Davidson
    January 12, 2010

    Anyway, I thought Oprah would probably just choose the next religion.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  29. #29 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Glen, while Oprah has a huge following, I think there would be a bigger Oprah backlash.

  30. #30 Gorobei
    January 12, 2010

    This is so a totally awesome idea. I’d watch (and I don’t even have a TV.)

  31. #31 Blondin
    January 12, 2010

    Fantastic idea!

    I suggest calling it “Holier Than Thou”. On second thought I kinda like “American False Idol”. It’s so hard to decide.

    Maybe we should have a contest to pick a name for this game show…

  32. #32 dnebdal.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    @Janine, OM ; 13

    I’m going to claim that it was unintentional, though the evidence doesn’t exactly support me.

  33. #33 cag
    January 12, 2010

    There is a problem with this approach – with religion there are no winners!

  34. #34 Bribase
    January 12, 2010

    PZ, I know that you’re a well respected biologist, an deeply able public speaker and a great spokesperson for the rationalist cause, but this is the best friggin’ idea that you’ve ever had!

    One additional idea though. In order to make sure that each competing religion doesn’t sugar coat their dogma for the sake of gaining votes we ought to have the hell round.

    Each religion needs to recruit a major Hollywood studio (hopefully with a director of the same faith) to make a 30 minute film of what their version of hell looks like, no censorship whatsoever, compulsory Hitchens, Myers, Dawkins, Dennet et al comeos. I can’t wait to see what Mel Gibson piles his megabucks into!

    Not only does this ensure full disclosure of what each faith proposes happens when you get it wrong, it also makes it impossible for anyone to vote for any religion at all out of sheer disgust!

    B

  35. #35 Glen Davidson
    January 12, 2010

    There we go, Janine, the Oprah backlash might be the shortcut to secularism.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  36. #36 destlund
    January 12, 2010

    Janine, but what if Dr. Oz said it was healthy? Like soaking your religion in water overnight to reduce the “toxins?”

  37. #37 aratina cage
    January 12, 2010

    Just what America needs to get out of the slump we are experiencing in novelty religions with all the fleecers being imprisoned and the stalwart shepherds losing their flocks to materialism and New Age woo. I can’t wait to see all the “dinos + humans living and worshiping together” competition facing Ham and Hovind, the enticing new wardrobe of Catholic priests, and Glitter Christ ascending to the heavens on a rainbow.

  38. #38 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Destlund, if that is the case, we will need a steel cage match between Dr Oz and Dr Phil.

    THAT’S IT! (Lucy style.) A religious royal rumble match!

  39. #39 jnnydnti
    January 12, 2010

    I love it! But . . .

    The panel should consist of a curmudgeonly atheist who believes in nothing, a ditzy, New Agey bit of fluff who believes in everything, and some wobbly agnostic who doesn’t know what to think.

    I’m thinking PZ Myers, Oprah Winfrey, and the eternal Bruce Vilanche, our favorite Hollywood Square.

    It’s possible that having Oprah as a judge for this program — American Idolatry? — would lead to a pro-Oprahism bias. Maybe the judges should also change each year?

  40. #40 destlund
    January 12, 2010

    Oh hell, Janine, why can’t the steel cage match just *be* our religion? You bet your ass I’d be in the pew on Sunday!

  41. #41 Eamon Knight
    January 12, 2010

    There’s even Biblical precedent for the idea. I’m all for it as long as this is one of the events: 1 Kings 18:16-40.

  42. #42 Janine, Mistress Of Foul Mouth Abuse, OM
    January 12, 2010

    THUNDERDOME!

    Two religions walk in. One walks out.

  43. #43 Sastra
    January 12, 2010

    Tor Bertin #27 wrote:

    Doesn’t quite work for Buddhists Sastra, since they (usually) don’t recognize a god.

    But the religion I described in #21 would of course imply that all religions express “God” in their own way. Not God. “God.”

    The scare quotes would allow in buddhists, religious humanists, and even fatheists — and can be removed or ignored at will by the more traditional.

    Also, because all religions are really just forms of the “Spiritual” religion, that means these candidates would cheat and steal the best bits from other religions for the contests. I can’t think of anything that embodies the true spirit of religion more than playing Calvinball like that.

  44. #44 aharleygyrl
    January 12, 2010

    when i clicked on the link from twitter, this is what i got, WTF?

    Warning – this site has been flagged and may contain unsolicited content.

    The content of this web page appears to contain spam, or links to unsolicited or undesired sites.

    http://bit.ly/8eMidY
    Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/scienceblogs/pharyngula/~3/7jSwsWTtKY4/americas_next_religion.php

    You can learn more about harmful content at http://www.StopBadware.org.
    You can find out more about phishing from http://www.antiphishing.org.

    Suggestions:

    ?Close your browser window
    ?Notify the sender of the URL
    Or you can continue to http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/scienceblogs/pharyngula/~3/7jSwsWTtKY4/americas_next_religion.php at your own risk.

  45. #45 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmCjarMSG5ZZR58WO-P0Vxt6VsXUB3PIB0
    January 12, 2010

    This is why you really do need to become an Otaku, you’ll find yourself with much less free time.

  46. #46 DALwrites
    January 12, 2010

    Nice post. Wish I would have thought of it. :)

  47. #47 fishyfred
    January 12, 2010

    So I was pondering why some faiths seem to be so bland and others so ferocious, and I had to think that, at least in Western countries, a period as a state religion had to have some moderating effect.

    This is supported by historical evidence. In early America, religions that had the endorsement of the state (and the accompanying tax proceeds) grew complacent and the population was easily susceptible to a radical religious revival. You had to be radical to stand out. Once endorsements became no more, everyone was trying to outradical everyone else and the old state churches were crushed.

  48. #48 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    I would love to see Rick Warren convert to Discordianism.

    Yes! Then, finally, ddate will have some use.

    Today is Boomtime, the 12nd day of Chaos in the YOLD 3176

  49. #49 vanharris
    January 12, 2010

    PZ missed out the ritual of burning at the stake a few hundred adherents of the wrong faith, just after the change-over.

  50. #50 Zernk
    January 12, 2010

    I hope the effects of that torturous drive wear off soon. Take a break. Have a few drinks. Get a massage. You’ll soon be yourself again. Just resist the temptation to write anything until you recognize your surroundings again.

  51. #51 sil-chan
    January 12, 2010

    You could call it “God’s’ Country.”

    The two apostrophes are since we don’t know if god will be plural or not yet^.^

  52. #52 Feynmaniac
    January 12, 2010

    When there was a controversy over the holiday displays at the Washington State Capitol a year ago I gave this suggestion:

    Every religion puts up a symbol and then gets to use it as weapon in the inevitable battle. Unitarians, from what I’ve learned, get a flaming Chalice, which could do some awesome damage. Christians get a cross, which can be used as a sword. Jews can use Stars of David as ninja stars. Muslims can use the crescent as a Bat’leth (“Defend yourself, Worf!”). The Eastern religions are at quite a disadvantage. Really? Did you guys honestly think the syllable Aum, a Dharma wheel, and a ying yang would be very useful in battle? Anyways, the one religion left standing get to have their display up until next year when the bloodbath begins again.

    I still prefer it to PZ’s nonviolent and slightly less dehumanizing idea.

  53. #53 https://me.yahoo.com/a/SaqGVG0xvJEQVwURVamS3DTCdvov0BLhXK1jOsYPPJQ-#b4893
    January 12, 2010

    I don’t like it.

    We’d be Baptist Nation, for sure.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t want that.

    MikeM

  54. #54 CRS
    January 12, 2010

    PZ:

    The panel should consist of a curmudgeonly atheist who believes in nothing, a ditzy, New Agey bit of fluff who believes in everything, and some wobbly agnostic who doesn’t know what to think.

    jnnydnti:

    I’m thinking PZ Myers, Oprah Winfrey, and the eternal Bruce Vilanche, our favorite Hollywood Square.

    That suggestion, like PZ’s post, is made of 100% pure win!

  55. #55 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmCjarMSG5ZZR58WO-P0Vxt6VsXUB3PIB0
    January 12, 2010

    Btw, has anyone found out how to fix the google mess. I’ve fucked with making a profile and adding nicknames and shit and It still gives me this gobblygook name ><.

  56. #56 https://me.yahoo.com/a/SaqGVG0xvJEQVwURVamS3DTCdvov0BLhXK1jOsYPPJQ-#b4893
    January 12, 2010

    I wonder, though, if we could put James Cameron in charge of this somehow. What religion do the Na’vi follow?

    MikeM

  57. #57 aratina cage
    January 12, 2010

    What religion do the Na’vi follow?

    The Pope says the Na’vi are nature worshipers. I don’t know if I’d believe him, though. He is biased.

  58. #58 Kraid
    January 12, 2010

    The contest will eventually pander down to the lowest common denominator, which means our state religion will eventually be all about boobs. And I don’t mean just the adherents. *rimshot*

  59. #59 https://me.yahoo.com/a/SaqGVG0xvJEQVwURVamS3DTCdvov0BLhXK1jOsYPPJQ-#b4893
    January 12, 2010

    America’s Next Top Super Idol?

    MikeM

  60. #60 aharleygyrl
    January 12, 2010

    You ought ot send this to Obama, he’d laugh his ass off! Seriously.

    It brings new meaning to “Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.” ~ Christopher Hitchens

  61. #61 Celtic_Evolution
    January 12, 2010

    While this is fun and clever, it’s certainly not realistic.

    Have you already forgotten, PZ, what happens anytime religions compete with one another, on any level?

    How long do you really think it would take for this competition to boil over into full-blown warfare? If there’s one constant on this planet it’s that religious competition = bloodshed.

  62. #62 Draken
    January 12, 2010

    I’d like to propose father Jack Hackett for the jury on behalf of the Catholic faction.

    Oh wait, not American… is that a problem for the jury? After all, Americans are proud of their European heritage, right?

  63. #63 JimboK
    January 12, 2010

    All of this makes me want to stay away from Manitoba, at least in January…

  64. #64 SmilingSkeptic
    January 12, 2010

    Does it have to be a real religion?

    America: Jedi Nation

    Wait, what am I talking about, “real religion”? They’re ALL fantasies.

  65. #65 Hurin
    January 12, 2010

    or even buy wetsuits and dildoes for the entire priesthood.

    I don’t know what this is about, and I don’t want to. Lets just say that’s one penance too far.

    the agnostic judge would be tougher, since they tend to be much more low profile, but perhaps we can just trawl a few bars for unemployed Ph.D.s in philosophy. All he has to do is bawl, “Why am I here?” now and then, so those qualifications should do.

    I nominate Ozzy Osborne. I’m not sure what his philosophical leanings are, but he could definitely handle the role of confused outburst maker. Plus, just think of the veneer of professionalism he would lend the entire proceeding.

    Oh, that was the sneaky part. All the loser religions will no longer be recognized by the government, and will lose all their tax exemptions.

    I have to admit, I thought this was a horrible idea at first, but you won me over with this one.

    We’ll either turn religion into a trivia question, or we will select the most virulently appealing faith of all time into existence.

    The latter effect might be avoided by changing the criteria and structure of the competition from time to time. Perhaps one year the official religion could be decided by a survivor style reality show hosted by Deepak Chopra. It would involve placing preeminent holy people (priests, bishops, popes, etc.) in a large monastary (with no small children) and a series of challenges to complete such as the fast off, magic underwear dancing competition, and ever popular host dispensation relay. The clerics could be voted out of the monastery by the public, but winning challenges would grant a one week immunity against elimination.

  66. #66 Bronze Dog
    January 12, 2010

    Simply brilliant.

  67. #67 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 12, 2010

    I don’t know what this is about, and I don’t want to. Lets just say that’s one penance too far.

    Too bad


    This

  68. #68 Feynmaniac
    January 12, 2010

    Picking a religion by game show? Let’s call it: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

    Also,
    - Wheel of Dharma
    - Zeal Or No Zeal
    - So You Think You Can Proselytize?
    - Trivial Pursuit

  69. #69 asidity
    January 12, 2010

    Is this post because of the recent xkcd comic that you’ve blogged about?

    Also, I should point out that the Muslims did the “religion of the king is the official religion” thing, and look at how that turned out.

  70. #70 Kraid
    January 12, 2010

    “Zeal or No Zeal”

    BAHAHAHA!

    I’ll take the article of faith in briefcase 12!

  71. #71 Hurin
    January 12, 2010

    Too bad

    This

    Well, there goes my innocence. Thanks a bunch Mr. Chimp.

  72. #72 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Onward, Christian soldiers! Grab your cellphones! Make the call!
    To make certain your religion is the favorite of them all!
    The preliminary judging puts us clearly in the lead,
    But your vote must still be counted to succeed!

    Onward, Christian soldiers! It’s a one-nine-hundred line,
    That will keep your lord and savior turning water into wine!
    We know we’ve asked a lot before; it’s really kind of funny,
    But your vote is what we need now, more than money!

    Onward Christian soldiers! Vote as often as you can!
    For the god who loved you so much that he turned into a man,
    And got nailed upon a cross of wood (which you should not attempt)
    Just to keep the right religion tax exempt!

    Onward Christian soldiers! Stop your praying! Grab your phone!
    Your God may be omnipotent, but can’t do this alone!
    Yes, we told you faith moves mountains, but we’re asking you now, please–
    God needs action now, so get up off your knees!

    Onward Christian soldiers! Here’s a message from above:
    We’re about to get our ass kicked by Muhammad’s boot of love!
    All your praying is a waste of time; We really want to win!
    Here’s a New Commandment: Praying is a sin!

    Onward Christian… never mind, you haven’t got the stuff–
    You must’ve thought that prayer alone would really be enough.
    We lied, and you believed us. Guess we just deserved to lose.
    But…
    Do we really have to suck up to Tom Cruise?

  73. #73 Kenbo
    January 12, 2010

    American Idolatry

    - short, succinct, and a close enough to the “real” show. If only you could avoid the lawsuit from Simon…plus it is actually a closer definition of the show than any of the others suggested so far.

    Reminds me of “Playing Gods – The Board Game of Divine Domination” (Google it, I am too lazy to linky).

    Television is truly the opiate of the masses.

  74. #74 Knockgoats
    January 12, 2010

    What religion do the Na’vi follow?

    I don’t know, but given inter-service rivalry, it’s bound to be different from that of the Ar’mi!

  75. #75 Legion
    January 12, 2010

    Celtic_Evolution

    How long do you really think it would take for this competition to boil over into full-blown warfare? If there’s one constant on this planet it’s that religious competition = bloodshed.

    True that, but we can manage religion’s natural tendency toward violence by taking a tip from the ancient Romans and modern day sports leagues.

    Each religion fronts a team in a newly created religious league where competition involves a combination of citing scripture, proselytizing, and of course, blunt force weapons.

    Religious sect adherents would channel their rage into their respective teams, just as soccer fans do. A little judicious crowd control by the newly created B.S.M.G. (Blackwater Stadium Management Group) would take care of any religious hooligans who get out of control.

    Atheists and other sane members of society could stay at home and watch the games on Pay Per View.

  76. #76 Athena
    January 12, 2010

    Ok, how do we fit bacon into this?

    Cuttlefish FTW also. LOL

  77. #77 glenister_m
    January 12, 2010

    I like the idea, particularly since I’m in Canada and it would be fun to watch the U.S. do this.

    Unfortunately the major stumbling block that I see is the whole IRS thing. It would be a major bureaucatic nightmare to change tax status back and forth each year (pay this year, exempt the next, etc.).

    I think you would either have to do it like the Olympics, once every 4 years, otherwise start it off as a game show only with a prize money/donation, and where the competing religions have to pay an entrance fee in order to compete.

  78. #78 Kausik Datta
    January 12, 2010

    Athena @77:

    Ok, how do we fit bacon into this?

    By using the Bacon Narwhal as the mascot of the new State religion.

    Cuttlefish FTW also. LOL

    IMO, Cuttlefish deserves a FATWAH (For All The Win, Always, Hands-down)!

  79. #79 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    How long do you really think it would take for this competition to boil over into full-blown warfare? If there’s one constant on this planet it’s that religious competition = bloodshed.

    That’s easy, take a cue from hockey: five for fighting. Get in a brawl, lose the right to compete for five years. I don’t care who started it, both of them in the box.

  80. #80 davej
    January 12, 2010

    It could never work, so I like the idea of a bumper sticker; “Let religions compete”

  81. #81 Kraid
    January 12, 2010

    Bacon could easily be worked into the one-upping competition between religions.

    “Tired of eating unleavened Host in those -other- religions’ sacraments? Well vote for us as America’s Next Top Delusion and try new BACON HOST, made with real bacon!”

    or

    “Do you follow the teachings of the Talmud but secretly yearn for the delicious taste of crispy bacon? Then vote for us!”

    etc.

    My personal entry into the competition will worship the holy trinity of Breasts, Beer, and Bacon. I think there’s a considerable following in place already.

  82. #82 aharleygyrl
    January 12, 2010

    Posted by: Feynmaniac | January 12, 2010 2:20 PM #69

    Picking a religion by game show? Let’s call it: Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

    Also,
    - Wheel of Dharma
    - Zeal Or No Zeal
    - So You Think You Can Proselytize?
    - Trivial Pursuit

    LMAO!!!!

  83. #83 Vadjong
    January 12, 2010

    Also, candidates should at one point have to face up to the
    [...drum roll...]

    PENN & TELLER Challenge Round !!!

    [...fanfare...].

  84. #84 Dilaceratus
    January 12, 2010

    Wow. One time about fifteen years ago my brother became road-hypnotized and hallucinated that he was riding a giant sewing machine down the middle of the road. I guess if he if he’d kept driving for a few more hours instead of doing the responsible thing and pulling over to sleep, he probably would’ve had this brainstorm first.

    Oh, well. Missed opportunities in the Midwest are as common as crows.

  85. #85 NewEnglandBob
    January 12, 2010

    I just threw up a little in my mouth.

  86. #86 Rawnaeris
    January 12, 2010

    Fucking fantastic. This would be amazing. I do think an every-other year or 4 would be better than every year.

    +1 to Cuttlefish

  87. #87 Porco Dio
    January 12, 2010

    spellbinding

  88. #88 frog
    January 12, 2010

    Sastra: In a fair contest, the Unitarian Universalists win out.

    Not close to sexy enough. It would have to be as creedally empty as UU, but with charismatic, sexy preachers and preacheresses who feel your pain.

    Like a New Age UU run by Bill Clinton and his latest girlfriend. Which would be good — it would keep him busy and wealthy and out of politics.

    Come to think of it — this game show would look exactly like American politics. “A God We Can Believe In!” — brought to you by Pope Obama and Sarah Palin’s Sacred Heart Missionaries and Gogo Boot Emporium.

  89. #89 Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom
    January 12, 2010

    “Also, I should point out that the Muslims did the “religion of the king is the official religion” thing, and look at how that turned out.”

    You’re not really up on history if you think this is a criticism that solely applies to muslims.

  90. #90 Moggie
    January 12, 2010

    The problem with awarding the winning religion a pile of money is that it would have the wrong god on it. If, say, the Amish win in 2013, how would they feel about being paid in 2012 dollars bearing the words “in slack we trust” under J.R. “Bob” Dobbs’s smiling face?

    Is Ben Stein available to host?

  91. #91 llewelly
    January 12, 2010

    … Rick Warren will continue to rake in the moolah, even if it is as the Saddleback Church of the Sub-genius …

    Technically, he’s a priest of Azathoth, the Blind Idiot God, but I don’t think Azathoth will care.

  92. #92 MetzO'Magic
    January 12, 2010

    Cuttlefish, you’ve managed to surpass even yourself. Two poems in 48 hrs, and the second one ties into the first. Yay, Cuttlefish FTW!

  93. #93 miserymire
    January 12, 2010

    I know little Timmy Robinson. He will be most perturbed to find that the methodists are praying for his recovery. Not as perturbed as he will be to find out that he’s dying of a terminal illness…

  94. #94 alysonmiers
    January 12, 2010

    Actually, beneath the cynicism, there is the grain of a good idea in this. I *like* the idea of religions having to compete with each other! Since criticizing religion is taboo, the established sects don’t really have to compete; they just rest on their laurels and hope their followers don’t go anywhere. Eff that noise, I say! Put ‘em all in a ring and let ‘em duke it out! I submit for consideration: The Church of Vibrators and Microbrews!

  95. #95 oinonio.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    This would be a great exercise of the American imagination. I can imagine the Elvis Worshipers and ultraorthodox Trekkies battling the Baptists and fringe Mormons… It’d be beautiful

  96. #96 llewelly
    January 12, 2010

    PZ missed out the ritual of burning at the stake a few hundred adherents of the wrong faith, just after the change-over.

    This is a America, you nitwit. When national policy is proposed, the propents tell lies about how wonderful it will be, and the detractors tell lies about how horrible it will be. The press refuses to publish anything about the policy which is true, until it has been voted on.

  97. #97 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    I’d have to vote for Anoia.

  98. #98 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawncr0FDc8gdl7yJBz0SJ15D0etcTIOtL0s
    January 12, 2010

    #58: …will eventually be all about boobs. And I don’t mean just the adherents.

    Lee Press-On Tits? They’re back?

    This is wonderful. Best post EVER.

    But there is a god, and His Name is Jacob Kreci. Those of you planning a trip to DC can worship Him here.

    Ron Sullivan
    http://toad.faultline.org

  99. #99 valayas-chosen
    January 12, 2010

    I for one hope Satanism wins.

  100. #100 MadScientist
    January 12, 2010

    Converting to the king’s religion was a simple matter of survival. Some examples that come to mind are Saint Olav and Henry #8 (succeeded of course by Liz #1 who carried on daddy’s compulsions to kill off catlicks). I can’t even remember which Roman emperor decreed the jesus cult as the official state religion – ah, those were the good days – throwing heathens to the wild beasts in the arena.

  101. #101 murtagh
    January 12, 2010

    I’m with #42 (and how appropriate is that?) – THUNDERDOME!

    Only it’d be more like 1000 religions enter, one leaves, and we do it every year until we run out of theists.

  102. #102 CJO
    January 12, 2010

    which Roman emperor decreed the jesus cult as the official state religion

    Constantine

  103. #103 destlund
    January 12, 2010

    I can’t even remember which Roman emperor decreed the jesus cult as the official state religion…

    That would be Constantine. I believe it was before he had his wife boiled alive.

  104. #104 Kagehi
    January 12, 2010

    Hmm. Think we could do this without making it “state religion”. Do it every 4 years, prior to the presidential elections (i.e., and off year), so it doesn’t get too mixed up in that mess, or the minor ones, then just provide a chunk of money to winner’s faith, and a ‘minor’ prize of tax exemption to the one the *audience* votes for, while removing it from everyone else. Instead of a game show sort of thing you require that contestants *state* what their views on certain ideas are, right from the start, then you run them through a mixture of Survivor + Eco Challenge. In other words, the winner is who ever doesn’t get voted off by everyone else, and manages to make it through sets of challenges, ranging from religion based challenges. Actually use a sling shot to break a tile representing the eye of Goliath, and other things, from other religions, for example. Secular challenges, such as fitting together animal bones, based on “similarity” with non-extinct species, or what ever else might work.

    The reason for making it more eco challenge is that the point isn’t to just make them hungry, but “drive them” to the point where they can’t go any farther. You don’t just get people voted out, you get them dropping out, presumably due to their “faith” not being strong enough to sustain them through the challenges. lol

    Oh, and, just to be clever, you exclude the names of any gods involved, and present the “beliefs” solely in terms of the theological positions on sets of ideas, so, for example, it might be a tad “harder” to tell a Satanist, (thanks for that one Valayas), with a philosophy that, “Some entity that claims to have created the universe lied, and while we follow the true lord.”, from some fundie that states something like, “Only the entity I believe in is true, all others are lies.” It needs to be only clear *at the end* which religion won, and otherwise confusing, uncertain, and possibly even contradictory, for those that *think* they know which religion it is.

    Mind, this could be quite hard, since you would have to keep the press from talking to them *before* the show aired, or otherwise exposing what religion the contestants belong to. Hmm…

  105. #105 https://openid.org/cujo359
    January 12, 2010

    besides the first amendment, and the Republicans don’t care about that anyway

    These days, the Democrats don’t seem to be married to it, either.

  106. #106 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 12, 2010

    the principle that whatever the faith of the king, that was the faith of the nation.

    This was the concept of cuius regio, eius religio, which loosely translates as “whose realm, his religion.”

    As part of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, the rulers of the German speaking states agreed that the subjects of each ruler would follow that ruler’s religion. The principle only extended legitimacy to two religions, Catholicism and Lutheranism, leaving out such religions as Calvinism, Anabaptism or Judaism. Any other practice of worship beyond the two legal forms was expressly forbidden and legally considered a heresy, a crime punishable by death. Although not intended to offer the modern idea of freedom of conscience, individuals who could not subscribe to the prince’s religion were permitted to leave the territory with their possessions.

  107. #107 Sili
    January 12, 2010

    I know you have a ‘feud’ going with Phil Plait.

    But it’s still not very nice of you to blow the whistle on his super-secret television project like this.

    Dirty pool, PeeZed, dirty pool.

  108. #108 Givesgoodemail
    January 12, 2010

    “buy wetsuits and dildoes for the entire priesthood”

    Mmmmm. Wetsuits and dildoes.
    Could make some of us want to seek ordination.

  109. #109 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    The more I think about this, the more I like it. There are quite a few people who need a taste of “Tyranny of the Majority” to show them precisely why we have a Constitution in the first place and why freedom of religion means freedom from religion.

  110. #110 Kel, OM
    January 12, 2010

    The sooner America converts to Bokononism, the better.

  111. #111 TheCalmOne
    January 12, 2010

    How about “America – You’ve Got Religion!”

    I love it already, and I’m not even American.

  112. #112 One Furious Llama
    January 12, 2010

    Dr. PZ Myers, just when I thought I couldn’t possibly like you any more, you come up with something so fundamentally brilliant, I am speechless.

    You, sir, iz made of teh winz!

    I might just move to Morris.

    #69, #83 – respect, smarter than a 5th grader!

    #108 – I knew it! No wonder Phil has been so tight lipped about his TV stuff… he’s about to take over the world!

  113. #113 Blondin
    January 12, 2010

    I’m envisioning pope Ratzinger (in mitre & surplice) on roller blades, clinging to the back of a motorcycle ala James Caan in Rollerball.

  114. #114 Moggie
    January 12, 2010

    #105:

    Hmm. Think we could do this without making it “state religion”. Do it every 4 years, prior to the presidential elections (i.e., and off year)

    Ok, stop there. When I’m elected Pope of America, anyone who can’t spell a two-letter word gets slowly roasted alive in a brazen bull. Just so you know.

  115. #115 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    Ok, stop there. When I’m elected Pope of America, anyone who can’t spell a two-letter word gets slowly roasted alive in a brazen bull. Just so you know.

    Heretic. It’s on the back of a bronze tortoise.

  116. #116 BobbyEarle
    January 12, 2010

    “Head Bobbing with the Stars”

  117. #117 tsg
    January 12, 2010

    “Head Bobbing with the Stars”

    No, that’s a different show on Skinemax.

  118. #118 BobbyEarle
    January 12, 2010

    ;)

  119. #119 Gregory Greenwood
    January 12, 2010

    I would like to suggest as a title ‘The Faith Factor’.

    You could also do a religious version of Blind Date (with or without Cilla Black), whereby prominent theists from various brands of woo are given a variety of really obscure attributes and historical events and figures from various religions. Each set of atributes is assigned to a number. They have to pick out which number corrosponds to their own faith. If they get it wrong, they have to publically convert to the religion they picked. That should provide a few giggles.

    It might also be interesting to have at least one round where all the competing religions have to present their beliefs to a panel of high profile atheists like PZ and Richard Dawkins. The competitors have to persuade the panel that their religion is objectively better for society and more persuant of secular moral standards than the other religions. Appeals to the ‘one true faith’ or ‘revealed truth’ or ‘believing in belief’ all result in immediate disqualification. You could also make them do it without hesitation or repetition like a certain BBC Radio 4 panel show, just to make it more interesting.

    It would be worth it just to watch Pope Palpatine sweat…

  120. #120 'Tis Himself, OM
    January 12, 2010

    “Head Bobbing with the Stars”

    That sounds like a spin-off of “Bobbing For Piranha.”

  121. #121 OrchidGrowinMan
    January 12, 2010

    So I was pondering why some faiths seem to be so bland and others so ferocious, and I had to think that, at least in Western countries, a period as a state religion had to have some moderating effect.

    Is this related to the concept of Optimal Virulence?

    Host susceptibility contributes to virulence. Once transmission occurs, the pathogen must establish an infection to continue. The more competent the host immune system, the less chance there is for the parasite to survive. It may require multiple transmission events to find a suitably vulnerable host. During this time, the invader is dependent upon the survival of its current host. For this reason virulence thrives in a community with prevalent immune dysfunction and poor nutrition. Virulence weakens in a healthy population and as hosts acquire resistance. Good hygiene, nutrition and sanitation are all effective strategies against virulence

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

    It seems that a little thought into the rules of the contest could be used to manipulate the evolutionary forces on the pathogens and on the hosts, allowing us as a species/society to mitigate the pathologies until good (mental) hygiene, nutrition and sanitation can be deployed to eradicate the pathogens entirely! (I am assuming there is no environmental reservoir to re-establish the pathogens.)

    PZ, you seem qualified to work on the planning needed!

  122. #122 Knockgoats
    January 12, 2010

    Henry #8 (succeeded of course by Liz #1 who carried on daddy’s compulsions to kill off catlicks) – MadScientist

    Henry VIII was succeeded first by Edward VI, who was too young to rule, but Catholics were persecuted by the Lords Protector; then by Mary I, who was Catholic and persecuted Protestants; then by Elizabeth I. By the standards of the time, she was actually pretty tolerant – the Catholics she killed were mostly if not entirely ones who were actively contesting her rule, and she said she did not wish to “make windows into men’s souls” – i.e., so long as you kept quiet about it, she wasn’t too bothered.

  123. #123 Susan
    January 12, 2010

    Pharyngulating religion on a national scale may be the best idea you’ve had yet, and you’ve had a lot of excellent ideas!

  124. #124 Disturbingly Openminded
    January 12, 2010

    RE: Bokononism

    I love bringing up Bokononism with fundies because most have never heard of it. At some point, I’ll let it drop that it is from a Vonnegut novel. Then I get to have a conversation like this:

    fundie: Oh, it’s not a real religion.

    me: Why do you say that?

    fundie: Someone just made it up and put it in a book.

    me: Maybe it’s revealed wisdom like the Bible.

    fundie: But the Bible is real.

    me: How do you know someone didn’t just make it up and put it in a book?

  125. #125 Creature of the Universe
    January 12, 2010

    I would like to see a round of “guess my confession” -or -”what is my confession”.

    A real life confession of a “sin” would be revealed to the audience. Then a panel of four would question three possible confessors (sort of like the show “I’ve got a secret”) and then, after several rounds of questions, the panel would have to guess the confession (based on the answers) and also match the confession to the actual confessor. Awards are given to the congregation of the person who guesses the confession. An award is also given to the congregation of the confessor but only if the confession is of a weighty sin. In essence the confessor “sacrifices themselves” for the improvement in overall standing of the confessor?s congregation. In this case, the congregation who has the most awful sinners confessing, could walk away with the most award points.

    Now to keep things moving, in between each round of questioning, rather than going to commercial, the show would move into a lightening round of a holy wafer shooting contest.

    Several contestants, using pneumatic wafer gun dispensers, shoot holy wafers over a mini fiery lake of hell (about 8.2 meters wide) into a plywood cutout mouth opening. How many wafers can be shot into the mouth in 1 minute?

    The congregations of those contestants, whose wafers fall into the hell fire lake, are severely penalized.

    Then, after the lightning round of wafer shooting, back to guess my confession.

  126. #126 David Marjanovi?
    January 12, 2010

    FATWAH on Cuttlefish.

    You ought ot send this to Obama, he’d laugh his ass off! Seriously.

    Absolutely.

    B.S.M.G. (Blackwater Stadium Management Group)

    :-D :-D :-D

  127. #127 Disturbingly Openminded
    January 12, 2010

    I think PZ’s basic idea about state religion has merit. I lived in Costa Rica for a year; most of the Ticos that I talked to were, at best, nominally Catholic. Although they were sure that it was true. They just didn’t seem much interested in it.

    And my family hosted a foreign exchange student from Norway. She was nominally Lutheran but told us no one cared about it. I felt really sorry for her that she wound up with my family. My dad was a Missouri Synod Lutheran minister and we lived in Kansas. I wanted to get her a T-shirt that said, “I went to America for a year and all I saw was Kansas.” Mom told me not to.

    She got in touch with me about 20 years later via the magic of email and agreed that her year with us was horrible. So I had a T-shirt made up and sent it to her.

  128. #128 lordofdoom
    January 12, 2010

    “Yet here I’d been talking with ex-fundamentalist ex-Mennonites, people who’d had a religion that was like a hammer to the cranium.”

    I come from a Mennonite background, and live in Winnipeg. I am currently 17 years old, and in grade 12. For the last number of years I have been an atheist.

    I go to a Mennonite school (Westgate Mennonite Collegiate) and aside from a weekly chapel and daily devotion I rarely come in contact with religious stupidity or anything resembling fundamentalism.
    The students in my grade are for the most part very weak in their faith, and very critical of the bible or things our religious teachers have to say (this could be the fault of me and my 4 atheist friends). Some of the teachers are fundamental when they talk about faith, but you would hardly recognize it in how they behave outside of chapels or devotions.
    In my experience, most modern day Mennonites (MBs (Mennonite Brethren, they are the more conservative by far) excluded) are very good at seperating faith from other matters in life.

    The most interesting thing about my school is how good the academics are (it is academically more challenging than the Winnipeg public schools). There is not one single shred of god in our science classes and no overtly religious books in our language arts class. I have rarely, if ever, been treated poorly because my very open atheism. In fact, I regularily have debated with the open minded teachers and students.

    In conclusion, it seems that the next generation of Mennonites are not fundamentalists. They are getting good educations and growing more skeptical. I like to think of Mennonites as similar to Jews; we are more of a culture than a religion these days.

  129. #129 sasqwatch
    January 12, 2010

    …some more candidate names for the gameshow:

    The Price Is Righteous

    $1,000,000 Chance of an Afterlife

    Let’s Fake a Deal

    High Holy Rollers

    Squeal of Torture

    Win Ben Stein’s Money (sorry… already taken)

    You Waste Your Life

  130. #130 Peter G.
    January 12, 2010

    If it would not be immodest I would like to propose such a national church of my own creation. It is called The Church of Christ The Enabler. The creed is fairly flexible. All sins are forgiven if your tithes are current. No actual contrition is required when publicly begging forgiveness and a properly attired minster of the church will assist you in any exculpatory press conferences when you get caught doing what you shouldn’t have been doing. All for a very modest fee.

  131. #131 windy
    January 12, 2010

    My Swedish forebears, for instance, were mostly Catholic in the 15th century, and switched to Lutheran in the 16th. Why? Because they had the principle that whatever the faith of the king, that was the faith of the nation. That’s a concept that’s a little weird to people who have it dunned into them that their particular faith is the one true path to God and heaven, since apparently which faith is the right one can be changed over the course of a coronation.

    That’s not the way it went down, really… AFAIK Gustav Vasa was not especially geared towards Lutheranism when he came to power. But there were all sorts of different reformatory ideas bubbling in Sweden at the time, and he was both influenced by them (especially this guy) and took advantage of them to get access to the wealth of the church. Also, he got tired of arguing with the Pope. So in many respects analogous to Henry VIII except with less wives involved. If there was any such principle then it was one that Gustav Vasa invented. Although later Sweden had Catholic kings but didn’t go back to Catholicism.

  132. #133 Gyeong Hwa Pak, the Pikachu of Anthropology
    January 12, 2010

    Is number 134, this guy?

    Via the dungeon

    Name: Global Warming is a Scam

    Crime: Insipidity

    He could have just posted his pseudonym once. He had nothing to add beyond that, ever.

  133. #134 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Global Warmism should be America’s official religion.

    Well, don’t worry; we’ll be sure to leave you Halloween. We all know how much you like dressing up and playing pretend.

    I see that you think you’ve come up with a new costume, but it’s really the same as your old one: pretending to be a normal human being with a functioning cerebrum. Why don’t you get your mommy to cut up a sheet and make you a ghost costume? In the meantime, we’ll pretend that we can’t hear or see you, just like a real ghost.

    Scary.

  134. #135 Gregory Greenwood
    January 12, 2010

    *crackling sound of static over intercom*

    We need a global warming denial cleanup on aisle 134.

    Repeat, global warming denial cleanup on aisle 134.

    Thank you, that is all.

    *intercom static*

  135. #136 Qwerty
    January 12, 2010

    I saw this in a spoof of Martha Stewart’s magazines, but it would work on this show.

    At some point the contestants would have the opportunity to turn water into wine.

    Yes, Martha had a competition with the Pope and she turned her water into a nice merlot while his water was still…. water.

  136. #137 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Is number 134, this guy?

    Yes. The slurry of non-information that he’s about to post will be a dead giveaway.

    Every post screams nothing but “Hey, look at ME-E-E-E-E-E-E!” He’s practically falling on the floor right now, laughing at how witty ‘Albore’ is.

    On the other hand, are you surprised the anti-global-warming vanguard is full of people who, like him, probably think “Jingle bells/Batman smells/Robin laid an egg…” is the zenith of wit?

    Looks like somebody missed nap time again.

  137. #138 WowbaggerOM
    January 12, 2010

    Oh, it’s evening break time at the whack-parlour – that’s why banned troll GWIAS can take time out from his busy jizz-mopping schedule to remind us of what an inane, clueless, pissant he is.

    What’s that sound? [fap fap fap] Uh-oh, GWIAS – clean-up in booth seven! You’d better run!

  138. #139 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    I see you are up to your old tricks (i.e., projection) there, Brown Noser. Why don’t you seek help for your disorder?

    Looky here, everybody: I provoked it into a novel response! It’s evolution in action! Somebody call Lenski–he’ll want to know if it can still digest lactose.

  139. #140 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010
    blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    Brownian is still projecting. How utterly unsurprising coming from a religionist.

    Great. Now he’s simply cutting and pasting from MAJeff as well as the various others who’ve mentioned projecting. I suppose that’s marginally more interesting than “I know you are, but what am I?”

    Folks, it’s entirely possible that we’re dealing with an exceptionally bright fourth grader here.

  140. #141 Gregory Greenwood
    January 12, 2010

    Don’t religions usually involve a concept of a divine being? or a transcendental soul? Or some supernatural component?

    Global warming is a theory. A theory that is a rather good explanation of the available data on global temperature trends. While this theory may ultimately transpire to be inaccurate and as a result may be replaced by another theory, this does not make it a religion any more than the theory of evolution is a religion or the germ theory of disease is a religion.

    You are, of course, free to challenge the credibility of this theory and present in its place an alternative interpretation of the data. However, attempting to discredit the concept by simply calling it a ‘religion’ is unlikely to convince anyone.

    I would counter that the almost autonomic rejection of the very possibility of global climate change has rather more in common with religion. Both positions refuse to engage with the body of scientific opinion or deal with the actual evidence gathered. Both positions are more concerned with defending their world view then actually considering the issue objectively. Both positions prefer a hospitable status quo to any change that might undermine their vested interests.

  141. #142 John Morales
    January 12, 2010

    [meta]

    One good thing about registration, PZ will nuke the troll with one click! :)

  142. #143 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    You are, of course, free to challenge the credibility of this theory and present in its place an alternative interpretation of the data. However, attempting to discredit the concept by simply calling it a ‘religion’ is unlikely to convince anyone.

    Free, but not able.

    Nice try at reason Gregory, but this fucking foghorn blasted all he could with his handle. Expect nothing but hot air every three minutes.

    Brown Nose? Seriously? I was parodying the screen names of morons on this blog while “GWIA{blank)” was cooing over the Dick & Jane primer on the Bermuda Triangle cover-up. Fuck, I’ve heard more clever variations on my name in the burblings of stroke victims.

  143. #144 WowbaggerOM
    January 12, 2010

    Heh heh heh. PZ’s obviously got a can of Troll-B-Gone’ on hand for emergencies such as this.

  144. #145 janegael
    January 12, 2010

    And here I thought you were going to talk about Gaia worship. Seems the Pope is so worried about people seeing Avatar and actually *gasp* caring about the earth that he had to come up with a warning against “worshiping” the one thing in the universe we absolutely know is responsible for our being here and nurturing us.

    I came out of Avatar broken-hearted at the expanse of cement of the parking structure and acres of parking lot, but resolved to plant more flowers and trees and give more back to the one I owe my life to. It’s not religion — it’s common sense. The earth dies and we die. At least in my yard a quarter acre of Gaia will go out looking good…

  145. #146 natural cynic
    January 12, 2010

    This kind of competition by religions actually did happen with the noble families of the Khazars in the late 9th century. [They lived in the steppes north of the Caucasus mountains] According to legend, they invited representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to try to convince the Khagan and the noble families of the advantages of their respective religions. They chose Judaism. Many of their people were Jews that had fled the Byzantine and Arab empires and many of the former pagans adopted Judaism, while others were converted to Islam and Christianity while others remained pagans. It didn’t last long, as they were conquered by the Kievan Rus/Vikings late in the 10th century.

    At the beginning of the competition, each religion could be assigned by chance a dying child, and the adherents would be expected to pray mightily for their kid.

    Or, we also have several thousand veterans with amputated limbs. Why not have them pray for a regrowth of missing parts. But then, none of them would make it through the competition and we’d never get a winner. Maybe it would be better to not have any miracles as part of the competition.

  146. #147 sasqwatch
    January 12, 2010

    Who Wants To Be A Doctrinaire?

  147. #148 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010

    PZ’s obviously got a can of Troll-B-Gone’ on hand for emergencies such as this.

    It’s too bad; I was having fun playing ‘the dozens’, though at best all GWIAR can manage is ‘the sixes’.

    So, he’s probably endungeonated by now. I suppose I should feel bad taunting him while he can’t taunt back, but impotent rage is clearly already his default mental state.

  148. #149 ursa major
    January 12, 2010

    The winner will be Ursa-ism. Sure we still have that Hell department, but after you die everyone who ever met you votes on which afterlife you go to. “Love your neighbor as yourself – or else!” And Breasts, Beer and Bacon – mandatory at every church service unless you really insist but other exciting body parts, intoxicants and foods must be substituted. Oh, that morality stuff? Figure it out for yourself. Really, if you can’t handle simple matters of right and wrong how are you ever going to handle your eventual promotion to godhood? I’d wager I have the best religion and we Ursa-ites will put our hottest cheerleaders on the show to prove it.

  149. #150 ckitching
    January 12, 2010

    Something in me relishes the idea of Simon Cowell hearing the full explanation of a religion and then saying, “That was just awful rubbish. Worst epistemology ever. You’re wasting my time.”

    That would be Christopher Hitchens’ role, of course. He might avoid being as personally insulting as Simon Cowell, but he can cut just as deeply with his other tools.

  150. #151 Gregory Greenwood
    January 12, 2010

    Brownian, OM @ 144;

    Free, but not able.

    I fear I might be expecting a bit much.

    Nice try at reason Gregory…

    Thank you. Sometimes I come close to employing actual reason. I will keep practising. ;-)

    …but this f***ing foghorn blasted all he could with his handle. Expect nothing but hot air every three minutes.

    You are probably right, but I thought it only fair to give him a chance to present some semblence of an argument to support his position. It was most likely a wasted effort, but at least no one can say that we refused to engage with his argument, such as it is.

  151. #152 timrowledge
    January 12, 2010

    By odd coincidence I just read an apropos short story by Mike Resnick; there’s an mp3 reading of A Pale Thin God

  152. #153 John Morales
    January 12, 2010

    Gregory,

    [...] but I thought it only fair to give him a chance to present some semblence of an argument to support his position.

    It was an already-banned troll.

    It had already spurned its chances (PZ is very, very tolerant). Dungeon escapees deserve nothing.

  153. #154 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    ou are probably right, but I thought it only fair to give him a chance to present some semblence of an argument to support his position.

    Gregory, he never gave any evidence, especially not any peer reviewed evidence, to support his position. He only had attitude versus those who didn’t agree with him. I continually begged/demanded that he support his position prior to his banning. NADA!

  154. #155 Brownian, OM
    January 12, 2010
    Nice try at reason Gregory…

    Thank you. Sometimes I come close to employing actual reason. I will keep practising. ;-)

    I’m so sorry. That isn’t what I meant at all. I should have written “Nice try at reasoning with him…”

  155. #156 veovis.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    Like MaleficVTwin @ #9, I too would very much like to hear more regarding the story of the murderous brother mentioned briefly at the beginning of the post. I suppose it’s possible that there’s not much more to tell, but I’m very curious as to what specific display of thought the elder brother deemed worthy of patricide. I also can’t help but hope he suffered the appropriate consequences, if indeed an attempt was made to end the life of his thoughtful younger sibling.

  156. #157 frog
    January 12, 2010

    PeterG: If it would not be immodest I would like to propose such a national church of my own creation. It is called The Church of Christ The Enabler.

    Not original. Gandhi accused Christianity of this when he made the comment that he didn’t want to be saved, he wanted to stop sinning.

    Of course, Gandhi’s religious beliefs had their own issues… He was a big fan of the mortification of the flesh, himself.

    We need a church where you cut out the middleman. You pay your tithe ahead of time — and you get pre-forgiven. No asking for forgiveness or any of that bother — just mail in your cash regularly and be absolved for the term of your payment.

    A simplified scientology, so to speak. And if you want to win the contest, some kind of hook up social event with lots of scantily clad males and females. Some good BBQ ribs as well.

  157. #158 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Gregory, GWIAS posted for several months before being plonked. He had plenty of time to make his case if he wanted to make the effort. As I said, he never really tried. All attitude, no evidence.

  158. #159 veovis.myopenid.com
    January 12, 2010

    er, fratricide, not patricide.

  159. #160 Rorschach
    January 12, 2010

    “Zeal or no Zeal”

    Love it !

  160. #161 John Morales
    January 12, 2010

    frog, also Ghandi memorably reportedly said said:

    I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

  161. #162 frog
    January 12, 2010

    JM:

    I’m not sure which is a worse slur on Gandhi — that he didn’t know enough about JC, and so was liking some fantastic JC of 20th century Christian mythology — or he actually did know a lot about the history of Christianity and the possible JC’s.

    Well, even the best of us have very serious character flaws.

  162. #163 wrpd
    January 12, 2010

    I would vote for Swedenborgianism only because it’s fun to say.

  163. #164 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Yawn, boring insipid banned troll is still boring, insipid, banned, and stupid. Try the peer reviewed scientific literature, or nothing. Bye-bye troll…

  164. #165 WowbaggerOM
    January 12, 2010

    Where did I put that can of Troll-B-Gone?

  165. #166 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    January 12, 2010

    The verdict is in. It doesn’t pass a Turing test.

  166. #167 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Yawn, still no evidence. What a waste of bandwidth. Get a life banned troll, show some intelligence, and post elsewhere. Without peer reviewed evidence, you have nothing. And you have had less than nothing for almost a year now. Time to change your approach if you wish to be effective…

  167. #168 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Yawn banned loser troll showing why he is a banned troll. Nothing but attitude, no evidence to back up his inane and insane assertions. What a loser. But then, what do you expect from a loser who makes inane posts he knows will be deleted. Not the sign of intelligence or rationality, just an idjit loser.

  168. #169 Kel, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Oh man GWIAS is completely and utterly pathetic. What a loser! Not only can he just post the same inane tripe over and over again – he keeps coming back to post the same inane tripe despite being continuously banned. Pa-fucking-thetic, a total loser who can’t take a hint.

  169. #170 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Loser troll is still a loser troll. Nothing of intelligence. No evidence. Knows he will be deleted. Showing nothing but stupidity and why he is a loser. One of these days he might start daycare, once he is potty trained. He is that feeble minded of a loser.

  170. #171 WowbaggerOM
    January 12, 2010

    GWIAS wrote:

    Yawn, Red and cowbuggerer are projecting.

    You do know what the word projecting means, don’t you? Neither he nor I are banned from this site; ergo, reminding you that you are banned can’t be projecting, can it?

    Feel free to point out how I’ve got that wrong.

  171. #172 kjd1005
    January 12, 2010

    Kevin (NYC) here… now known by my email it seems…

    “Let’s pick the official US state religion with a game show.” I like the idea of competing for a year of being the state religion.. but when I read that I was like .. Lets MAKE a game show the state religion! it would have to involve sex and violence. and money. and it would run on ALL channels at once.

    anyhow.. I went to my moms over the holidays and once she asked to say grace so I’m like oh Ill do that.. and thanked the sun and the moon and stuff. so like next time she wante to lead us in the bless us oh lord speach, which some of my sisters obliged her so she didn’t have to do it herself.

    so here is a food blessing for you comments.

    “I thank [insert cooks name] for preparing this food, and the grocers that supplied it and the hands that carried it home.

    I thank the farmers that grew it and the plants and animals that we are about to eat.

    I thank the SUN for giving us all life, so eat and grow strong and be happy.”

  172. #173 Peter H
    January 12, 2010

    Forget the trolls! This is too good! Back to the main topic! Brilliant!

  173. #174 Doug
    January 12, 2010

    Man, that must have been some kind of a boring drive, to dream all that up.

  174. #175 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    January 12, 2010

    Man, that must have been some kind of a boring drive, to dream all that up.

    Have you ever driven across the great plains? A couple of trees by the side of the road is excitement…

  175. #176 korin43
    January 12, 2010

    While you may not be able to get enough religions to agree to this, you could have an entertaining bi-yearly atheist competition where we try to find representatives of a specific faith willing to be on our game show, and then give them some amount of money and promise to tell people that it’s our religion for the next two years (obviously only the atheists who are participating).

  176. #177 Dionigi
    January 12, 2010

    My Vote is for V?tsy?yana it will win hands down as soon as they start showing the Kama Sutra and carving the figures into Mount Rushmore.

  177. #178 sasqwatch
    January 13, 2010

    …reminds me of a joke:

    A rabbi, an imam, a priest, a swami, and a prajna walk into a rebar cage… tell me if you’ve heard this one before…

  178. #179 sasqwatch
    January 13, 2010

    Ah… I remembered the punch line: “the one with the biggest tits.”

    Wicca, for the win.

  179. #180 sasqwatch
    January 13, 2010

    tap, tap, tap…

  180. #181 Dawkins Slayer
    January 13, 2010

    You people ought to get out more

  181. #182 John Morales
    January 13, 2010

    DS, you have no credibility, quite aside from your puerile comments.

    Posted by: Dawkins Slayer Author Profile Page | January 13, 2010 3:22 AM

    I’ve had enough of this website, so I’ll leave you all to dwell in your sicko fantasy world of shit. I’ve got better things to do.

    Posted by: Dawkins Slayer Author Profile Page | January 13, 2010 3:38 AM

    You people ought to get out more.

    Clearly, you have nothing better to do than to troll. What a sad specimen you are.

  182. #183 WowbaggerOM
    January 13, 2010

    Dork-in-layers, you pathetic fucking clown shoe homophobe! I thought I could smell your distinct aroma of pissant insipidity.

  183. #184 QuodEratFaciendum
    January 13, 2010

    This is easily the best idea I have ever heard in my life. Ever. Bar none. I am going to suggest it to Gordon Brown here in England too.

  184. #185 Gregory Greenwood
    January 13, 2010

    John Morales @ 154 and Nerd of Redhead @ 155;

    So he was the same banned troll who used to go by the handle ‘Global Warming is a Scam’ then?

    Well, if PZ deemed that this bloke earned a place in the dungeon by virtue his obtuseness and insipidity, then that is good enough for me.

    I wonder why he feels compelled to go online to simply spout the same, unsupported claim about Global Climate Change? And why on an atheist blog of all things? Does he think that by adding the label of ‘religion’ to global warming he will receive a more favourable reception here?

    As one of PZ’s Horde of baby-eating, Pharyngulite gremlins, I feel that this is somewhat of an insult to our intelligence.

    Still, it looks as though PZ has returned the escapee to the dungeon where he belongs.

  185. #186 Gregory Greenwood
    January 13, 2010

    Brownian, Om @ 156;

    I’m so sorry. That isn’t what I meant at all. I should have written “Nice try at reasoning with him…”

    I know that was not what you meant. I was just pulling your leg a little, hence the smiley.

    Maybe I will try the other one in a little while. Hopefully it will have bells on! :-)

  186. #187 Gregory Greenwood
    January 13, 2010

    Dawkins Slayer @ 182;

    You people ought to get out more

    If this is truly how you feel about this site and its contributors, then why are you taking time out of your doubtless busy social schedule to come here and post a comment that you must realise none of us are going to take overly seriously.

    I make it a point of not taking advice on social mores from anyone whose chosen handle betrays such hostility.

    What has the Professor ever done to you? Apart from challenge the validity of your preferred Bronze Age mythology, that is?

    I would not advise getting into a battle of wits with a man like PZ of Professor Dawkins. You would find yourself seriously outgunned.

  187. #188 MrJonno
    January 13, 2010

    The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would walk it,

    Every Friday off down the pub, religious subsidising of bars, free beer.

    Strippers and lax moral values to actually be encouraged

  188. #189 tsg
    January 13, 2010

    You people ought to get out more

    There is nothing quite so pathetic as someone who has to go out of their way to tell you how uninterested they are.

    We are at least having fun discussing nothing of interest to you. You, apparently, have nothing better to do than be bored by us. So who needs to get out more?

  189. #190 Birger Johansson
    January 13, 2010

    In regard to the bland Lutheran churches of Scandinavia -I have chosen to remain a member of the Church of Sweden despite being an atheist. The reason is, if a bland but harmless church fills up the “ecological niche” for faith, it is harder for really malignant belief systems (insert name of cult you dislike most) to establish themselves. I pay a few bucks per year in church tax, but at least I know it will be that much harder for suicide cults to establish themselves and prey upon the vulnerable…

    For similar reasons, I am in favour of our (bland and powerless) Swedish monarchy; if we had a republic like USA, the guy with the real power would also have the symbolical power of being the living embodiment of the nation. Remember, Thatcher could never do as much damage as Reagan, the slot for “symbol of Britain” was already filled…

  190. #191 llewelly
    January 13, 2010

    The reason is, if a bland but harmless church fills up the “ecological niche” for faith, it is harder for really malignant belief systems (insert name of cult you dislike most) to establish themselves.

    This is like encouraging influenza in the hopes that it fills an ecological niche Ebola would otherwise fill. Such a relationship is possible, but there’s no evidence to suggest it.

  191. #192 yiab.pip.verisignlabs.com
    January 13, 2010

    “America’s Next Top Mantra”

    I love this. I’d have to lift my self-imposed ban on reality TV if this went on the air. First, you want to pitch it to a major network with a smaller prize value (like 1 million dollars). You’d get a lot of minor religions gladly participating for the publicity alone, even if the major ones find the idea degrading. If people actually start following it though, the major religions will hop right on the bandwagon too.

  192. #193 dnebdal.myopenid.com
    January 13, 2010

    @Birger Johansson:
    Those are much the same reasons I have for supporting the Norwegian monarchy (and not opposing our state church very hard).

    Having a king that obviously has no right to wield any real power limits the office quite a lot compared to a president (who would be seen as having popular support) – and I quite like that.

    Ditto for the state church. The trade-off for being official is that they have to be very moderate, with things like female bishops and a nominal acceptance of gay people forced onto them. If they can, for a few people, fulfill a desire for religion that would otherwise lead them to something more aggressive: Excellent.
    Mind you, the average age of the active members is increasing steadily, and I can’t say that worries me overly, either.

    @llewelly: I know the correlation/causation aspect is murky, but the current state of the western countries with state religions hints that there might be something to it. (And unlike viruses, people generally limit themselves to one religion.)

  193. #194 David Marjanovi?
    January 13, 2010

    This kind of competition by religions actually did happen with the noble families of the Khazars in the late 9th century. [They lived in the steppes north of the Caucasus mountains] According to legend, they invited representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to try to convince the Khagan and the noble families of the advantages of their respective religions. They chose Judaism. Many of their people were Jews that had fled the Byzantine and Arab empires and many of the former pagans adopted Judaism, while others were converted to Islam and Christianity while others remained pagans.

    Is that so? All I know is that the ruling class (at least) adopted Judaism in order to remain independent from the Byzantine empire across the sea on the one hand and? not so much the Arab empire far to the south, but the (likewise Muslim) Bolgar empire close by in the north.

    However, the story is well known that the prince who introduced Christianity to Russia held such a competition between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam. Catholic masses and churches were too unappealing, and Islam’s prohibition on wine was not an option, so? an alliance with the Byzantine empire, complete with trophy wife purple-born princess, seemed like a good idea.

    And Breasts, Beer and Bacon – mandatory at every church service unless you really insist but other exciting body parts, intoxicants and foods must be substituted.

    Intoxicants are mandatory? :-( There’s only so far you can go with theobromine? OK, yeah, caffeine, but I only drink weak tea and no coffee? opioids in fresh bread? :-/

    For similar reasons, I am in favour of our (bland and powerless) Swedish monarchy; if we had a republic like USA, the guy with the real power would also have the symbolical power of being the living embodiment of the nation.

    The USA is unique among democracies in having fused these functions. Elsewhere, the president is not the head of government.

    I know the correlation/causation aspect is murky, but the current state of the western countries with state religions hints that there might be something to it.

    Then what about the godless Czechs?

    Or indeed about the French, among whom ultraconservative but utterly powerless Catholics can be found in a fiercely secular society?

  194. #195 Mike
    January 13, 2010

    As a former Episcopalian, I can tell you it is a very small group. You could never compare them in size to Baptists and Catholics! LOL

  195. #196 123456789
    January 13, 2010

    The cargo cult known as Global Warmism should be America’s official religion. Instead of communion, they could distribute carbon credits.

  196. #197 Birger Johansson
    January 14, 2010

    The British author Jasper Fforde had one of his protagonists invent a church for the “Global Standard Deity” -a rather mellowed-out god that could fit everyone, thus making the church very successful. BTW, Fforde is highly recommended if you like slightly surreal humor, a bit like Douglas Adams.

  197. #198 windy
    January 14, 2010

    a bland but harmless church fills up part of the “ecological niche” for faith ritual

    fix’d

  198. #199 monado
    January 16, 2010

    AND you could call it “America’s Next Idol.”

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