Recently, Cedar Creek Church in Toledo, Ohio used a worship team cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to inspire and thrill congregants. As I watched the following video, I thought, man if churches start playing 1960s-1980s rock music, with a bit of Staind, Theory of a Deadman, Seether, and Puddle of Mudd thrown in, why I might be persuaded to return to church. As the video shows, the Cedar Creek band is top notch, as are some of the singers. The guy singing the lead? He’s no Freddy Mercury.
What this video really shows is how far some Evangelical churches will go to attract, maintain, and entertain its members. While I am sure congregants were wowed by the worship team’s rendition of one of the greatest rock songs ever, I wonder if any of them asked themselves, what in the hell does this song have to do with worshiping God?
Here’s the original rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody:
Comparing the two, it is easy to conclude that the Cedar Creek version is a cheap imitation of the original — as are most attempts to mimic the “world’s” music. I wonder if Cedar Creek thought about the “nothing really matters” focus of this song? Perhaps that best explains entertainment-driven, cutesy, hip, nondescript shopping mall-like Evangelical churches — nothing really matters.
Now, I am not r-e-a-l-l-y planning to return to church. I had to say this lest anyone thinks I am sympathetic to returning to church. I don’t want word getting out that I am considering a return to the dark side.
What do think? Are you ready to join me next Sunday for church?
Justin Bieber, raised in a Fundamentalist Christian home, continues to struggle with the vestiges of a life left long ago. Evangelicals, hanging on every superficial mention of Jesus as proof that their God is real, see in Bieber’s performance below proof that he is still one of them. Never mind that the song I Could Sing of Your Love Forever never mentions God or Jesus or that the next song, Cold Water, reverences getting high, all that matters is that The Bieb sang a praise and worship song.
This video is a perfect example of how watered-down praise and worship music has become. I complained of this years ago, saying that many of the songs could easily be turned into boyfriend/girlfriend love songs. Out of the thousands of adoring French fans who heard Bieber sing this medley, how many of them knew the first song was a religious tune? Not many. Less than one percent of Frenchmen are Evangelical. Protestants make up two percent of the population. The overwhelming majority of Frenchmen are Roman Catholic, and only five percent of them regularly attend mass. Sixty-three percent of French youth say they belong to “no religion.” I think it is safe to say, based on the aforementioned statistics, that most of the concert goers thought Bieber was singing an easy-to-learn love song.
I feel sorry for Bieber and other raised-Evangelical pop stars. Superstars such as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Bieber have all acted out in ways that brought the disapproval of their parents and the outrage of offended Evangelicals who thought these artists were on Team Jesus®. Their actions, often displayed for the world to see, are their way of rebelling against their Fundamentalist upbringings. In Cyrus’ case, she has repudiated her former beliefs, lashing out at Fundamentalists who continue to attempt to control her sexuality and censor her lyrics. Bieber, on the other hand, is still trying to hang on to Jesus. Several times a year the Hollywood gossip blogs and magazines will regale us with all the juicy details of Bieber’s latest youthful indiscretion. The latest? Nude (frontal) photographs of Bieber and his girlfriend. There, hung in all its glory, is Justin Bieber’s junk. I have no doubt that Bieber sought forgiveness from God for his latest “sin” and later sought out counseling from whichever Evangelical pastor is currently his spiritual guide.
If I could give Bieber counsel I would tell him to let go of his Fundamentalist parents and his Evangelical upbringing and enjoy life. Stop feeling guilty over whatever behavior your parents or other Evangelicals are telling you is “sinful.” It’s your life, and you are free to live it as you wish. Just remember the paparazzi are always near, ready to splay your life before their readers. Be discreet, but sin away!
In recent years, several movies marketed to Evangelicals have featured erotic scenes of Evangelical revivalism ravishing atheism. Movies such as God is Not Dead are built around the notion that the Christian gospel has the power to brings atheists to their knees. Never mind the fact that these Evangelical fantasies are about as real as the scenes found in countless porn movies. While I can point to countless Evangelicals who are now atheists, rare are atheists who become Christians. When people tell me that they were atheists before they embraced the wonderful, matchless grace of Jesus, I question them as to what they really believed. Most often these former atheists were not atheists at all. At best, they were anti-theists or indifferent to religion. These atheists-turned-Christians wrongly assume that not believing in the Christian God means the unbelievers are atheists. This simply is not the case.
Most atheists I know can give numerous reasons for why they are atheists (or agnostics). Most of the atheists-turned-Christians I have met couldn’t explain atheism if their life depended on it. Ask them what atheist writers they have read and they will likely give you a blank stare. What often happens is that Evangelical pastors and evangelistic zealots convince these new Christians that they were once atheists. What better testimony is there than that of an atheist who realized the Evangelical deity was the true and living God. Outside of being a Satan worshiper, a mob kingpin, or Pablo Escobar’s right hand man, there is no greater Christian testimony than to have once been an atheist.
Most atheists are naturalists and materialists. Most atheists put a lot of stock in the sciences. It is hard for me to imagine someone abandoning science and a naturalistic view of the world in exchange for a religious system built upon an anti-science, anti-reason foundation. I am sure, on rare occasions, it happens, but I do not personally know of one person who was once a card-carrying atheist and who is now a Bible-believing Evangelical Christian.
Actor Kevin Sorbo is working on a film about “an atheist who, upon experiencing a near-death experience, converts to Christianity.” Titled Let There be Light, the movie will feature Sorbo as the world’s greatest atheist. Think Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, or Steven Hawking. Or move way down the list to C movie atheists such as myself or other one-time Evangelical preachers. Try to fathom what possibly could happen for one of us to have a come-to-Jesus moment where we reject reason, skepticism, rationalism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, and science and in their place embrace the mind-numbing, anti-intellectual, irrational, and anti-science beliefs of Evangelicals. Sorry Kevin Sorbo. This might be some sort of Christian porn fantasy, but in real life it is highly unlikely that a well-known atheist would reject atheism in favor of Evangelicalism.
Of course, this won’t stop Sorbo and others like him from making movies such as God is Not Dead, God is Not Dead 2, and Let There be Light. You see, these movies are not made for atheists or to be used as an Evangelistic tool to reach the godless for Jesus. These type of movies are campaign propaganda meant to stir the hearts of believers, leading them to believe that ANYTHING is possible — even the salvation of Richard Dawkins.
Yesterday, Mother Teresa was granted sainthood. This monumental event led Benjamin Wiker, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Franciscan University of Steubenville to say that Catholics should now pray to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, asking her to heal Steven Hawking of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and convert him to Christianity Wiker writes:
I know this might be rather bold, but I’d like to ask, say, several million people out there to pray to Mother Teresa during her canonization day, and eight days thereafter, for the conversion and complete healing of the great physicist Stephen Hawking.
Why? As simply as I can put it, his conversion and cure would be a miracle that would show to the world that Christian faith and science are not opposed, but (as St. John Paul II said) “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
Imagine what would happen to Hawking himself if God would see fit to answer this prayer through the intercession of Mother Teresa. He would not be any less a physicist. He would still know what he had previously known, from Black Holes to Quantum Mechanics, but his universe would quite suddenly become immeasurably larger and more complex.
Hawking would then be faced with an even bigger task than coming up with a Theory of Everything because the Everything he would now have to fit into the Theory would involve mysteries beyond the ken of science, but not in ultimate contradiction to them. Faith and science couldn’t be in contradiction because they in fact co-exist in a much larger harmony. There are Black Holes and there are also Albanian nuns (or at least one) whose prayers somehow bring about the divine healing of unhealable diseases like Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has for so many years afflicted Hawking.
Moreover, if these prayers were answered, Hawking would know exactly what it was like, some two millennia ago, to be healed directly by Jesus, and that would mean that the New Testament would quite suddenly be transformed from a book of fiction (as too many scientists see it) to a book of startling miraculous facts. That book would then have to be on the same shelf with his physics books.
As far as I know, Hawking never met Mother Teresa. But I have often thought, when seeing Hawking so sadly trapped in a painfully twisted body for so long, what it might have meant for him if Mother Teresa had come to him, as she had to so many like-wise broken bodies lying in the dust of Calcutta, and picked his frail body up, looked into his eyes, and spoke with him about the love of Christ.
One might say that it’s too late for such a meeting. But it just may be the perfect time, her canonization, a very busy time for saints. She could, God willing, go to him now.
I also think about this meeting for what might seem an odd reason. Stephen Hawking has lived far, far longer than anyone should who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. That in itself is a mystery. Perhaps it is a mystery waiting for such a meeting.
I pray that it is, and hope again, for several million others to do likewise. Spread the word.
St. Teresa, by the Grace of God you ministered to the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick, the crippled, the leprous, and the dying. We beg you please, in virtue of the Graces now bestowed upon you in canonization, to pray for the complete physical healing and conversion of Stephen Hawking. Through the same Christ our Lord you so dutifully served. Amen.
I predict, based on the evidence at hand, that no notable atheists will be converted through Sorbo’s movie. I also predict that seven days from now Steven Hawking will (sadly) still have ALS. And as a final prediction, I predict that Christian preachers, priests, and movie makers will continue to make money off Christian porn featuring straw-men atheists who do not exist in real life. From the safe corners of Christianity, God’s spokesmen will continue to tilt at the atheist windmills of their own making. Cheering crowds of Christians will rejoice, thinking their leaders have once again routed the enemies of God. Little do they know that no atheists were harmed in the making of this movie.
Mr. Robot is a USA Network drama starring Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson, a “cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression.” (Wikipedia) Now in its second season, Mr. Robot focuses on Alderson’s interaction with the hacktivist community as it attempts to battle global corporate influence and control. I am an avid fan of the program. I love its dark, complex storylines. I have been a Rami Malek fan since 2010 when I first saw him in the HBO miniseries The Pacific. If you are a fan of dark/sci-fi/dystopian psychological thrillers, I think you will really like Mr. Robot. And if you are an atheist, you will certainly love Mr. Robot’s negative — dare I say hostile — portrayal of organized religion. I am surprised that One Millions Moms — the outrage wing of the American Family Association — have not called on their followers to write letters to Mr. Robot advertisers, threatening to stop buying their products unless they immediately pull their ads.
In a post titled Every Atheist Needs: Mr. Robot, blogger Godless Mom featured Elliot Alderson’s season two rant about organized religion. Alderson, answering the statement “God can help you, said what most atheists would love to shout from the mountaintops:
“Is that what God does? He helps? Tell me, why didn’t God help my innocent friend who died for no reason while the guilty ran free? Okay. Fine. Forget the one-offs. How about the countless wars declared in his name? Okay. Fine. Let’s skip the random, meaningless murder for a second, shall we? How about the racist, sexist, phobia soup we’ve all been drowning in because of him? And I’m not just talking about Jesus. I’m talking about all organized religion. Exclusive groups created to manage control. A dealer getting people hooked on the drug of hope. His followers, nothing but addicts who want their hit of bullshit to keep their dopamine of ignorance. Addicts. Afraid to believe the truth. That there’s no order. There’s no power. That all religions are just metastasizing mind worms, meant to divide us so it’s easier to rule us by the charlatans that wanna run us. All we are to them are paying fanboys of their poorly-written sci-fi franchise. If I don’t listen to my imaginary friend, why the fuck should I listen to yours? People think their worship’s some key to happiness. That’s just how he owns you. Even I’m not crazy enough to believe that distortion of reality. So fuck God. He’s not a good enough scapegoat for me.”
Here’s a video clip of Anderson’s rant. I hope you will watch the video. Anderson’s passionate oration against organized religion is must-see TV.
A Fundamentalist Christian woman by the name of Lucinda Palestrant sent me the above email earlier today. Palestrant came to this site via a Google search for Darwin Fish. Eighteen months ago I wrote a post about Fish titled, Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God. In this post I described Fish this way: Darwin Fish, the truest Christian on earth, a fundamentalist on steroids. Evidently, Palestrant is also a member of that elite, super-sanctified, elect remnant of Christians who supposedly will someday be rewarded by Jesus for their mind-numbing devotion to what they believe are the TRUE teachings of the Bible. Heaven awaits them, their reward for stoutly standing for true Christianity®, while the illimitable sea of humans past, present, and future will be cast into outer darkness, facing eternal torture and suffering because they were born in the wrong country, raised in the wrong home, or had the wrong beliefs. (See Why Most Americans are Christian ) And for people such as myself, those who have full knowledge of the truth, yet reject it and lead others astray? Hell, fueled by God’s hatred of sin, awaits.
Palestrant warns me: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. (Psalm 94:11) Evidently, this verse is supposed to scare me. God knows what you are thinking, Bruce, Palestrant admonishes, thinking that I will quake in my Sketchers over the very thought of her God reading my mind. Here’s what Palestrant fails to understand: I think her God is fiction, no more able to read my mind than Leonard Nimoy — of Star Trek fame — is able to do a mind meld and read my innermost thoughts.
As a writer, public figure, and a well-known atheist, I understand that my written and spoken words matter. Virtually every day that I am physically able, I send out my words to be read by thousands of people. For almost a year now, my editor — Grammar Gramma — has edited my writing, helping me to hone my writing skills, saving me from countless careless, imprecise errors. My goal has always the same: to passionately and effectively tell my story in such a way that it infuriates Fundamentalists, helps those who have been harmed by Fundamentalism, and provide a voice for those who have been psychologically savaged by Evangelical Christianity. (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? )
I consider it a great honor to have the Lucinda Palestrants of the world tell me that I am leading people to hell. Since the Biblical hell is about as real as Donald Trump’s Christianity, the only “hell” I am leading readers to is the one filled with reason and freedom. It is in this “hell” people find that they are free to follow the path of life wherever it leads. No longer shackled by Fundamentalist dogma, former Evangelicals are free to embrace the wild, wonderful (and dangerous) world on their own terms. I can only hope that Lucinda Palestrant will someday experience the wonders of an intellect liberated from the bondage of the Christian Bible.