Tag Archive: Smoking

The God Pushers Are Having Their Day in The Developing World — For Now

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Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I can recall when a yellow haze hung in coffee shops, transportation terminals, and other indoor public spaces. Most adults, it seemed, smoked. It was even socially acceptable to give a carton of cigarettes as a gift for Christmas, a birthday or some other occasion. I know: I gave cartons of Lucky Strikes, Pall Malls and other brands to aunts, uncles, godparents, and godchildren, even though I never smoked.

Most young people simply cannot imagine such a world. For one thing, the price of cigarettes has multiplied. For some people, that cost is a disincentive to start smoking; for nearly everyone else, it’s a reason not to wrap up cartons of Kools and Marlboros and tie them with colorful ribbons. If anything, most young people want to discourage their family and friends from lighting up.

It is not surprising, then, that in 2018, a lower percentage (15) of the US adult population smoked than at any time since such statistics were kept. Although more than 38 million Americans still smoke, the habit is less likely to be passed along inter-generationally: more than a few people decided not to pick up cigarettes after watching family members and friends struggle with, and die from, nicotine addiction.

Now anti-smoking campaigns like the ones initiated by the US Surgeon General in the 1960s have taken hold in Australia, Japan, and Canada, and even in countries like France, where lighting up a Gitane or Gauloise was part of the image of a soigne sophisticate. Throughout the developed world, rates of smoking are falling faster than a pack of Viceroys dropped off Big Ben.

So what have tobacco companies done? They’ve gone to China, Russia, Somalia and other low- and middle-income countries. Worse yet, though not surprisingly, they’ve targeted the young — I mean, the really young. In my travels, I recall seeing boys who hadn’t reached puberty lighting up and puffing in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In those parts of the world, it’s even more common than it is in the US or Europe to see stores selling individual cigarettes, which is how most teens and pre-teens buy them. If anything, the tobacco companies are encouraging such practices: the teenager who buys a cigarette a day could easily become the adult who smokes a pack, or even more, a day.

Now, it seems, pharmaceutical companies are following at least part of the tobacco companies’ playbook. Although the opioid epidemic still devastates families and communities, prescriptions for OxyContin — the most commonly-used opioid painkiller — in the US have fallen by 40 percent since 2010. The overall volume of opioid prescriptions, which include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percocet) and other drugs, as well as OxyContin, has fallen by about a third since 2011. So the makers of those drugs have begun campaigns to encourage doctors to prescribe those drugs, and are even encouraging over-the-counter sales in countries where pharmaceuticals are less regulated.

In a sad, cruel irony, Mexico is experiencing its own opioid crisis, as its citizens are using the drugs to cope with the traumas of forced migration, gang violence, political corruption, and economic stagnation: problems brought on, at least in part, by the demand for those, and illegal, drugs in the United States!

Of course, tobacco and opioids aren’t the only means people in poor and developing countries use in their attempts to cope with the disruptions caused by the whims, decadence, and cruelty of richer countries — which, in some instances, were their actual or de facto colonizers. What I am about to mention has, in essence, the same effect on people who are poor, dispossessed and otherwise victimized through no fault of their own.

Not for nothing did Karl Marx call religion the “opium of the people.” Opioids are so named because they mimic opium’s ability to numb or kill pain. For many people, faith, prayer, and participation in religious rituals allow them to forget, if only for a moment, the terrible conditions in which they live, and to believe (or at least hope) that there will be something better after this life. This effect can be powerful enough to prevent the poor and powerless from seeing, let alone understanding or fighting, the people and institutions that keep them oppressed. For that matter, the narcotic of faith can actually keep people from knowing that that the people and institutions responsible for their misery have, as often as not, some role in the creation or propagation of the very religion that they’re being encouraged or forced to adopt.

I can’t help but think that the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical churches, as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other powerful hierarchical religious institutions, understand what I have just described. They also know that, to put it crudely (some would say crassly), folks, especially the young, in the developed world are no longer buying what they’re selling. While it’s true that the more extreme and depraved forms of Evangelicalism are having a heyday in the US (where they have the ear of their President and other powerful leaders), their hold on the U.S. can’t last. Their kids eat lunch with gay and gender-fluid peers as well as Muslims, Buddhists, and kids with no religion at all — and cultures very different from their own. Some young Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses will cling to their beliefs for as long as they can, but even for them, it’s not a sure bet that their faith will withstand exposure to the facts.

A few religious leaders have admitted as much, whether tacitly or explicitly. They know that the U.S. is not a “growth market.” Latin America won’t be one for long, and Europe, at least in the north and west, is declining or even dying as a “market” for their faith. As people in those places are exposed to more ideas, practices, and cultures different from their own — which is to say, as they become more educated — they simply see less reason, and thus have less need, to live their lives according to half-baked, warmed-over Bronze Age myths. If anything, those people, especially the young, see the harm that clinging to those ideas has caused the generations before them, in much the same way I and other people of my generation saw the harm tobacco and painkillers caused older members of our families and communities.

But the young, let alone their elders, in much of the poor and developing world have not yet seen the destruction caused by addictive substances, nor do they understand the corrosive effects irrational beliefs will cause them and their societies. And they are experiencing enough pain, whether physical or emotional, to try anything that might help them forget, even for a moment, that the one offering the opium or the opioid is, in fact, causing the pain. It is among these that the pushers of religion have their only hope of expanding their capital.

At least the third-world “market expansion” of western religions will have an expiration date. When that will come, I don’t know, but come it will: inevitably, someone will understand that addiction — whether to toxic substances or ideas — leaves the addict in a worse state than he or she was in with his or her pain. Oh, and they will also realize that those offering relief or salvation are the ones who caused their malaise and oppression in the first place. Then they will remember when the pall of that malaise and oppression hung in the air, and be happy their children won’t have to inhale it.

Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Dinosaurs, and the SIN of Smoking

Snark ahead.

Two years ago, our youngest son moved out, and he left behind a box of trading cards for our grandson. He had hundreds of trading cards, including some from Answers in Genesis. I am not sure how old these card are, but I suspect they are at least 15 years old. I did not know these cards were in the box, and my oldest son found them when he was going through the collection with our grandson.  We had a lot of fun with these cards, a reminder of what we once believed.  I thought you might enjoy the good science these cards teach, so I scanned a couple of them just for you!

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I love the logic of this card. Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis are committed to a Fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of the Bible, except when it not convenient to do so. Since the inerrant, infallible, inspired creationist science textbook, AKA the Bible, doesn’t mention dinosaurs, and Ham and Co. know dinosaurs existed at one time, it is imperative that one of the animals mentioned in the Bible be a dinosaur. Kids love dinosaurs and  have lots of questions about them. Using his magic Bible word-decoder ring, Ham determined that the behemoth in the book of Job is actually a dinosaur and that dragons are also dinosaurs.

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I found this card interesting for a different reason. The card states emphatically that the Leviathan mentioned in the book of Job is actually a sea monster. No, actually it is a Leviathan, right? We must not tamper with the inerrant, infallible, inspired creationist science textbook, AKA the Bible. But again, when a point needs to be made, Ham and Co. have no problem ignoring the hermeneutic they demand all other Christians use.

Forty years ago, I heard a sermon on Job 41:19-21, but it wasn’t about a sea monster. Oh no, this IFB preacher was quite novel and his sermon showed that you can make the Bible say almost anything. The text says:

Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out. Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron. His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

Are you ready for it? Drum roll, please! According to this preacher, these verses are about SMOKING!  Surely you can see it:

  • Out of his mouth go burning lamps (the burning cigarette in the mouth)
  • Out of his nostrils goeth smoke
  • His breath smells bad

This is definite proof that smoking is a sin.

And now let us go to a Sunday service at Bible Baptist Church. It is manipulation time, time for the altar call:

Every head bowed, every eye closed. Is God convicting you of the sin of smoking? If so, with no one but God and me looking, please raise your hand so I can pray for you.

I see that hand, and that hand. Praise Jesus.

Dear baby Lord Jesus, I pray right now for those who have admitted they are sinful smokers. Please forgive them of their sin and give them the victory over Marlboro. And while you are at it Lord…please help them to see that the money they are saving by not buying cigarettes can be put in the offering plate so the church can continue to preach the gospel of no smoking.

In the name above all names, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

121615

Hustling for Jesus: Can We Please Have Your Name, Address, and Credit Card Number?

Snark ahead

Every so often, I get card pack mailers that contain post card sized and larger advertisements for businesses. Last week a pack titled Explore History arrived in my mailbox. (the card packs are marketed by Marketshare Publications)  (link no longer active) I always go through the cards, never buying anything, just to see who is trying to sell what.

This month there were several cards hawking goods for several Christian ministries businesses. I thought readers might enjoy seeing the cards, so I scanned them.

Mike Huckabee and Learn Our History

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Learn Our History, a business founded by fundamentalist Baptist and 2016 Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, wants to send me a FREE DVD detailing the REAL history of the United States. All they ask is that I give them my name, address, and credit card number so they can charge my card $1 for shipping and handling. What’s not told is the fine print which is available on their website:

learn our history fine print

The NEXT DVD will cost me 11.00 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling and will keep coming every month until I tell them to stop sending them. Man, I can get coasters cheaper than that at Walmart.

Mike Huckabee is a theocrat who thinks that public school history books are teaching a false narrative about the founding and history of God’s city set on a hill, the United States of America, incorporated by God 1776, all rights reserved. If I was a betting man, and I am, I bet there are a few undercover for Jesus Christians teaching in the public school who use these DVD’s to teach their students the REAL history of the greatest nation on the face of earth.

United Church of God

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The United Church of God: an International Association, is an offshoot of Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. Crazy then, crazy now, but from what I hear they are more orthodox now than they used to be, so  much so that many Christians consider them real Christians who just happen to be bat shit crazy on some stuff. You know, just like every other cult except the one the true Christian is in. They always seem to see the error in other cults, but never their own. Too bad there isn’t a God, heaven, hell, judgment, and afterlife. Finding out who the REAL Christians are would be quite entertaining.

Church website

Steps to Christ

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Steps to Christ is:

…a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to giving every home in America the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ through the mass distribution of free Bible-based, Christian literature. Over the past 40 years, we have distributed free books to over 22 million homes across the United States, bringing hope, peace, comfort, and encouragement to thousands.

At PROJECT: Steps to Christ we believe the Holy Bible should be our source for truth. While there are many authors and religious organizations that have great insights and observations about truth, ultimately the Bible MUST be our guide! We have observed that denominational labels often influence our willingness to examine new ideas and resources. We have intentionally NOT provided a denominational affiliation in an effort to minimize pre-conceived ideas about the material provided.

Isaiah declared “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20 KJV) We endeavor to ensure ALL materials provided by us are Biblical. We invite you to examine any resource that we provide for its Biblical accuracy and bring to our attention any variations from scripture.

I love how Steps for Christ doesn’t say what their denominational affiliation is. They want to give the appearance of being above the denominational fray when in fact they have defined, narrow theological beliefs just like every other sect.  One thing I found interesting is that Steps for Christ thinks smoking will keep someone out of Heaven. They even have a Bible Answers section on their website, filled with hundreds of proof texts for the various issues that Christians seem to preoccupy themselves with. What a way to live…just find a Bible verse and you can justify almost anything. Strike that….find a Bible verse and you can justify almost anything. History is replete with stories about Christians who used the Bible to justify vile, murderous behavior.

What do these three Christian businesses have in common? They want your name and address so they can continue to help market and sell their shit to you. It’s all about adding names to a mailing and donor list so they can periodically contact you, warn you about the evil world we live in, and ask you for money to help them continue spreading fear. And if you could send them the names of a few friends who might be interested that would be great too.