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Category: Evangelicalism

Jason Lisle Says There is No Such Thing as an Atheist

atheist foxhole

Imagine, for a moment, that every time someone told me they were a Christian I told them that they weren’t really a Christian because there is no such thing as a Christian. It says right here in the Book of Bruce Almighty® that everyone knows that Bruce Almighty exists and that anyone who says they are a Christian is suppressing their knowledge of the existence of Bruce. The Christian would likely say that they know they are a Christian because Jesus saved them and they believe the teaching found in the Bible. Imagine if I REFUSED to allow the Christian to authentically tell their own story.  Can you imagine how outraged Christians would be if I refused to accept their story at face value?

Yet, this is EXACTLY what fundamentalist Christians like Dr. Jason Lisle do. Last week, Jessa Duggar and her husband Ben Seewald Duggar visited the  “Institute for Creation Research in Texas, where they spoke to members of the self-described leader in scientific research within the context of biblical creation.”  When Seewald asked Institute scientist Dr. Jason Lisle if he could prove the existence of God, Lisle replied:

“The evidence of God is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. In fact, Roman 1 tells us that God has revealed himself to everyone, and what that means is, there is really no such thing as an atheist.”

According to Lisle, humans are hardwired to believe in God and God reveals himself to everyone, so there is no such thing as an atheist. Lisle went on to say:

“So I don’t really have to give new evidence to a professing atheist. All I have to do is expose his suppressed knowledge of God.”

Lisle is a perfect example of an educated idiot. No matter how much scientific knowledge Lisle has, the words of the Bible are the final arbiter of truth. For example, in a game I have often played with people like Lisle, I willingly accept the premise that creation reveals to us that there is a God. I then ask them to give me evidence from creation that the God creation gives testimony to is the Christian God. Discussion over, because the fundamentalist is forced to retreat to the safety of THE BIBLE SAYS! You see, it’s not creation that reveals that the Christian God exists, it’s the Bible. At best, creation reveals that a deity, a divine being, or an advanced species created the earth and its inhabitants. If it is abundantly clear just from creation that the Christian God of the Christian Bible is God, why do other cultures and religions claim that the creator God is a different deity? Humans, over their long history, have worshiped a plethora of Gods. If creation makes it clear that the Christian God created everything, why do billions of people worship other Gods? Perhaps God has a marketing problem and should hire Don Draper to write a God advertising line that every human will know and understand. As soon as anyone hears it, they will say, Oh, that’s the Christian God jingle.

Ben Seewald, showing his deep understanding of science said:

“I know there is also a lot of scientific evidence, we are here at the Institute for Creation Research, and there is a lot of — really, all science points to the validation of the Genesis account,”

It’s true…you can’t argue with stupid.

One more quote that I am sure my fellow atheists will love. Lisle said:

The atheist is like a little child sitting on his father’s lap, slapping his father and spitting on him, and insulting him, and so on. He are only able to do it because his father is supporting them. And the atheists are like that. Their using God’s laws of logic, their using a sense of morality that God gave them in order to argue against the very God who makes such things impossible.

To which, Ben Seewald said, WOW, that’s really amazing!

Yeah, my thought e-x-a-c-t-l-y.

Here’s the video of Ben Seewald’s “discussion” with Dr. Jason Lisle.

Video Link

One Millions Moms Says a Boy is a Boy Even if She is a Girl

 

girl scouts

One Millions Moms (OMM), the outrage wing of the American Family Association, issued an action alert today condemning the Girl Scouts’ policy on transgender youth. The action alert states:

A new Girl Scouts of the USA policy states it will extend membership to boys who identify as girls…

…This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk.

Adults are willing to experiment on our kids – both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them…

Here’s the Girl Scouts policy that has OMM upset:

Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.

Simply put, if a child is recognized as a girl by their family and school and lives culturally as a girl, the Girl Scouts will allow the child to be a part of their group. OMM refuses to admit that matters of sexual orientation and sexual identity can be fluid and complex and that biologically sexuality is nuanced and complex. In their mind, God made male and female, end of story. If you are born with a penis you are a male and if you are born with a vagina you are a female. However, if you have done any reading on sexual orientation and sexual identity, you know that, thanks to science, matters orientation and identity are complex. These days, to be conversant on these issues, one must understand terms like heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual,pansexual,polysexual, androphilia, gynephila, intersex, cisgender, transsexual, transgender, etc. In the simplistic world of the OMM, God, through genetic voodoo makes humans male or female. However, God’s genetic voodoo act can result with in a child being born with the “wrong” genitals or other chromosomal aberrations. God must have been having a bad day, eh? ( Transgender, Intersex, Sexual Orientation)

As with seemingly every American culture conflict, Christian fundamentalism and literalistic interpretations of the Bible are the primary agitators. Science continues to undermine and discredit fundamentalist beliefs. Christian fundamentalists have two choices: they can grudgingly accept the findings of science or they can ignorantly and blindly wage war. Sadly, most fundamentalists choose the latter. Until the light of reason finds a way into their mind, there is no hope of reaching them. All we can do is keep them from hurting others. Like children with scissors, we need to make sure that OMM’s scissors have blunt ends so they can’t hurt themselves or others.

Bruce, What Do You Think of Russell Earl Kelly and His Position on Tithing?

tithing

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Byroniac asked:

Bruce, have you ever heard of Russell Earl Kelly and his book, “Should the Church teach tithing?”. And if so, do you plan to blog about it? I promoted it as much as I could, and got ZERO attention for it, probably because I was not important enough to be noticed or because wherever I go I seem to become the proverbial black sheep. Considering that I have lost every single popularity contest I have ever been in, both inside and outside the church, I suppose this is not surprising. Anyways, even as a freethinker now, I still agree with the majority of what this guy teaches about tithing, to the best of my memory.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Russell Earl Kelly:

Russell Earl Kelly is an American Christian theologian, apologist, author, speaker and blogger. He writes nonfictional theological books. Russell is best known for evangelizing and debating why tithing 10% to one’s church is not a Christian obligation…

Russell graduated Cum Laude from Sprayberry High in 1962. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., received 22 semester hours in Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. Russell graduated Cum Laude from Southern Missionary College in Tennessee in 1976, now called Southern University Of Seventh Day Adventist, and served two churches in Georgia, four in North Dakota and one in South Carolina.

Although legally blind since 1989, Russell subsequently completed a Th. M.. and a Ph. D. at independent Baptist-oriented Covington Theological Seminary in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia in August 2000. His dissertation was on the subject of tithing. From that dissertation came his first book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. His second book is Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, published in 2005. His third book, From Gethsemane to Ascension, An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays, February 2008, is in conversational style…

You can check out Kelly’s horrible looking Front Page/Windows 95 era looking website here. According to Sitemeter, the site averages about 500 page views a day. You can read his blog here.

Kelly is a 70-year-old New Covenant Independent Baptist who loves to put PhD after his name and talk about tithing. One would think that Kelly has a degree from a respected university, but he doesn’t. He earned his PhD at Covington Theological Seminary, an unaccredited Independent Baptist institution in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia. Want a doctorate? It will cost you $2,395. Work required? 40 credit hours and a 25,000 to 50,000 word thesis. You can check out Covington’s catalog here.

I have made my view of unaccredited IFB doctorates quite clear in the post IFB Doctorates: Here a Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor. That said, education aside, Byroniac’s question is about Kelly’s view on tithing. While I have not read Kelly’s book, I do think his view on tithing is generally correct. Kelly states:

New Covenant giving is: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love for God, fellow Christians and lost souls. Do not burden or curse God’s poor who struggle to feed and shelter their family. Although there is no set percentage for Christians to give, all should give sacrificially or lower your standards of living in order to further the reach of the Gospel.

Kelly, like many Independent Baptists, is a dispensationalist. There is no possible way for one to be a dispensationalist and still believe tithing is for today. There’s nothing in the New Testament that remotely teaches that Christians should give 10% of their gross income to the church (the storehouse). Preachers who believe in tithing must use Old Testament proof texts to prop up their beliefs. IFB preachers pretty much ignore the commands of the Old Testament except for the verses on tithing, women wearing men’s clothing, and sodomy. Many preachers added to the tithe requirement demands for special offerings and Faith Promise missionary offerings. It is not uncommon to see poor IFB church members giving 10-20% of their income to the church, believing that if they did so God would open the windows of heaven and pour them out a blessing. Like their faith healing counterparts, IFB preachers promise wonderful blessings from God if people will just open their wallet and give an above 10% offering to God.

While I think that Earl Kelly, based on what I have read on his blog and website, is full of himself, I do think he is essentially correct when it comes to tithing and what the New Testament teaches about giving. His teachings haven’t caught on because, for many churches, abandoning the tithe would bankrupt them and force their preacher to get a real job. Preachers have a vested interest in maintaining good cash flow and the tithe is the best way to do so.

When Polly and I were first married, we were tithers. We also gave a lot of money to missions and every time the church took a special offering we gave liberally. I would preach sermons on tithing, rebuking those who were stealing from God. I would preach from Malachi 3:8-10 sermons about those who robbed God:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

As my theology began to evolve and I was influenced by New Covenant theology and Calvinism, I came to see that tithing was an Old Testament command no longer in force. This change in belief was helpful because it allowed me to put an end to me receiving a pittance of a salary and then making it even more of a pittance by giving a tithe and offering. It made no sense for me to tithe when the church was not even paying me a living wage. Now, in the end, we often gave more than 10% of our income to the church or to parachurch ministries. Instead of seeing the church as the bank through which all funds must go, we gave some money to the church and then helped ministries and individuals as God led us to do so. Buying a homeless man a meal was just as important as giving the church $20.

Generally, I think most churches have way too much money and are poor stewards of what they do have. I had a banker in Somerset, Ohio tell me one time that I would be shocked if he told me how much money many of the local churches had on deposit. He told me this because he thought the church I pastored was different, knowing that we rarely had a $100 checking account balance.

I was of the opinion that money was meant to be spent. Yes, take care of the church building, fund ministries, and pay the preacher. Anything above that should be spent on ministering to others. The last church I pastored was sitting on a pile of money and the first thing I did was help them spend it. They had so much money in the bank that they hadn’t balanced the checkbook in years. I balanced the account for them and found that they had $5,000 more than they thought they did. In the seven months I was there, I had the church spend money on remodeling the building. Quite frankly, it was a dump. Of course, the church was fine with spending the money. Doing the actual construction work? A handful of men did all the work. Most of the members were quite happy to let others do the work. They were too busy bitching about the remodel to help, complaining about everything from wall and carpet colors to lighting. I lasted seven months and was so glad “God” led me elsewhere.

Do you have a tithing or giving story to share? I’d love to hear it. Please share your story in the comment section.

Note

You can download Kelly’s book here.

Paul Cohen thinks Kelly is a false prophet.

Bruce, What Do Think of the Marjoe Gortner Story?

young marjoe gortner
Marjoe Gortner

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

Hi Bruce .. what do you think of the Marjoe story?

For those not familiar with Marjoe Gortner:

Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.

He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…

…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.

They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings,[7] and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…

…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.

In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…

If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.

Video Link

Video Link

As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.

When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?

Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.

When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?

In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.

As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:

In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.

My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.

I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?

Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.

1972 Roger Ebert Interview with Marjoe.

Marjoe Gortner by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman

Note

If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,

Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham is the CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Ham is also working on a project called The Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark theme park. Ham is a Bible literalist who believes the universe is 6,019 years old. Ham believes that Genesis 1-3 accurately and completely explains how the universe came into existence. In his mind, evolution is a lie spawned by Satan to deceive the masses. If asked if he believes in the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture, Ham would reply with a resounding YES!  But, I have conclusive proof that Ken Ham does NOT  believe in the sufficiency of the Christian Bible. I know this is shocking, but it is time for me to expose young earth creationist Ken Ham as a Bible-denying liberal.

ark plans

In a recent blog post, Ham had a picture of engineers going over the plans for the Ark Encounter project. WHAT?, I thought to myself. Why does Ham need plans for the Noah’s Ark replica? Isn’t God’s word sufficient for the building of the Ark?  God made it very clear how he wanted the Ark built, from its composition to its size:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:14-16)

Surely this is enough information for a 21st century engineer and construction company to build the Ark? Surely they don’t think their knowledge is superior to that found in the inspired, infallible, inerrant, Word of the thrice Holy God who said in the book of John the Revelator, chapter 22:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

How dare Ken Ham go against the authority and sufficiency of the Words of God!! How dare he make up his own plans and ignore the plans of God, the divine architect!  I am calling Ken Ham out on his Bible-denying Noah’s Ark plans. I am calling on  One Millions Moms,  American Family AssociationFamily Research CouncilFocus on the FamilyHSLDABob Jones UniversityLiberty UniversityOhio University and all the other colleges on the Ken Ham approved list of creationist colleges, to cut ties with Ham over his denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I am calling on Evangelical Christian schools and homeschoolers to stop buying Answers in Genesis materials and stop taking field trips to the Creation Museum. For God’s sake man, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!  What’s next? Building a replica of the New Jerusalem and ignoring God’s architectural and engineering plans? Ham must be stopped lest others follow in his pernicious ways!

Note

For the Bible literalists who read this post and are outraged, please look up the word satire in the 1828 edition of Webster Dictionary.

 

Catholic Man Offended by Hindu Neighbor’s Statute of Shiva

shiva

Here’s a story from New Zealand that perfectly reveals how clueless many Christians are about how their beliefs are perceived by others. I guess if you have always been the playground bully, you have no concern for the little guy. In this story, a Catholic man, who has no problem with Christian crosses, gets upset when his Hindu neighbors erects a statute of Shiva: (link no longer active)

A religious spat has broken out between two neighbours in rural Auckland after one erected a 6.4m statue of the Hindu god Shiva.

Ravin Chand told the Herald on Sunday that he installed the 30-tonne religious effigy so that he and his family could pray to it.

But neighbour Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was “bizarre” and “offensive”.

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree

“I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

It took Chand more than a week to assemble the statue and he defended it saying it was part of Hindu culture. “It’s just that the size is a bit bigger,” he said.

Asked why he had mounted the giant deity, Chand said: “Do you need a reason to pray? I don’t think so.”…

…Chand said the correct council consent and geo-technical inspections were completed beforehand. But Watts said he was not informed about the proposed statue, and said it was “bizarre” it could be erected without any consultation with neighbouring properties.

“They’ve let it go ahead to be built without consulting us, and we’re probably the most affected here because everywhere we go on our property it’s kind of there.”

Watts said he had complained to Chand but there was little else he could do because the Auckland Council had already consented to it being built.

“I’ve been to the council and asked about it and evidently it was within their rights to do it and it doesn’t need a permit, even though it’s a 6.4m-high concrete statue.

“It’s 10m from our boundary which is within the rules where you can build a building. It’s like, ‘bad luck, if you don’t like it, it’s your problem’. I find it really hard to believe in this day and age that this can happen.”

Chand said Watts had phoned his wife – but was the only person to complain. “Everybody else who has gone past has stopped and admired it,” he said.

“[Watts] compared it with ‘me putting up a [Nazi] swastika next door to you’. I said, ‘Well if you want to put it up, feel free to put it up. Nobody can stop you from doing that, it’s your property.’

“I’m not bothered. I haven’t got time for people like that.”

Chand added there were many churches in the area, but no one complained about them…

Here’s the money quote:

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree. I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

Funny, I’ve had that same feeling about Evangelical Christianity.

My wife and I worship nature. We bought our home and land eight years ago. When we bought it, it had two spacious old trees, a large peony patch, a flaming azalea, and a few flower bulbs. Each spring and fall we have planted trees, bushes, flowers, and bulbs. We plan to turn our yard into an Atheist Garden of Eden. Now, our neighbors may not like what we have planted. Perhaps our newly planted trees and bushes blocks their view of our house. Should we give one moment’s thought to their like or dislike? Of course not. As long as we respect property lines and conform to zoning and constructions standards, what we do is no ones business but ours. If one our neighbors wants to put up a gawdy statue of the virgin Mary that’s none of our concern, and they shouldn’t care one bit about what we do with our yard. Live and let live, right?

Now, we don’t really worship nature, but you get my point. Christianity may deeply influence the culture we live in, but once we cross our property line, we have entered the Kingdom of Hitch and our God demands we help clean the air by planting trees, bushes, and flowers. We gladly comply because our God richly blesses us with wondrous colors and beauty. While the Catholic might find beauty in a tortured man nailed to an old rugged cross, Polly and I find beauty in the ebb and flow of the natural world. Like the Christian, we can sing, Our God is an Awesome God.

Note

Memo to Christians. Invoking Hitler or the Nazi’s is always a bad idea.

I should also note that we did take our neighbors into account when we determined what type of trees to plant. Since we spend days each fall raking up leaves from trees on properties not our own, we wanted to make sure we did not add to our neighbors workload by planting trees that would deposit leaves on their property.

Sacrilegious Humor: God is Drunk at a Party by Jim Jefferies

This is the first installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is God is Drunk at a Party  by Jim Jefferies, an Australian stand-up comedian, actor and writer.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Come Get Your Miracle at The Church on Fire

Several weeks ago, Polly and I were in Fort Wayne to attend a baseball game. Polly made a wrong turn and we ended up driving by The Church on Fire, a United Pentecostal church. United Pentecostal churches are also called oneness churches because of their denial of Trinitarian theology. Here’s a few photographs of the church’s sign and its unique roadside prayer box.

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Why is the Evangelical God Silent?

letter to the editor

What follows is a letter I sent today to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News:

Dear Editor,

There seems to be no end to the sermons printed in the editorial section of the Crescent-News. Intractable warriors for the Evangelical God preach against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism, humanism, secularism, and atheism. Letter writers claim to know the mind and will of God on every matter, warning that failure to heed their preaching will result in God pouring out his judgment and wrath on the United States.  They warn that two people of the same sex marrying will bring an end to Western civilization. Yet, it seems that their preaching is falling on deaf ears.

Several months ago, St John’s United Church of Christ came out of the closet and declared themselves to be an open and affirming church. This means gays and same-sex couples are welcome at St. John’s. When I read the news report, I could hardly believe it. I thought, have I been beamed away to an alternate universe, to a county where people are not judged for who they love or how they express intimacy? No, right here in Defiance County, a church that is not ashamed to welcome one and all.

Young adults are increasingly gay friendly and are no longer interested in the bigoted, homophobic religion of their parents. Some of them join the ranks of the nones, those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards organized religion. On many of the issues that seem to cause Evangelicals great consternation, young adults show that they think love, fairness, justice, and compassion are more important than dogma and literalism.

When I read  the letters from Evangelicals, I see an aging group of people desperately trying to regain power and control over a culture that has little interest in what they are selling. 40 years ago, instead of focusing on personal piety and good works, Evangelicals sold their soul to groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association. They traded their place in the community for political power. They abandoned reason and rationality and became the purveyors of ignorance and bigotry. And now they are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Come June, despite millions of Evangelical prayers, conferences, rallies, and sermons, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. I wonder how Evangelicals will respond? Will they turn to the heavens and ask God why he turned a deaf ear to their prayers? Will they point the finger at their homophobic rhetoric and bigotry? I doubt it.  It will be atheists like me, liberals, socialists, and the Kenyan-born usurper in the White House that will be blamed for their inability to return America to the love, joy, and peace of the 1950’s.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. They call out to the heavens asking their God to show his power and act on their behalf. Yet, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems their God is either deaf or on vacation.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Bruce Gerencser