Really Cool Megachurch Infographic

I have been a member of this site http://myblogguest.com/ for a while, but it very rarely yields something on topic for my blog.  But today I have a doozy for you.  An infographic all about Megachurches and how much money they take from people.  The best part, though, is that it still appears to be associated with a Christian mission — to get people to go to Christian colleges online. There’s a nice little “MegaBenevolent” section with quotes from several pastors, including the illustrious Rick Warren.

Megachurches, big business, christianity

Although religion is still prevalent in today’s society, small American churches around the country are slowing and shutting down at a rate of 1%, whereas megachurches are continuing to grow at a rate of approximately 8% each year. Many megachurches use more corporate marketing and advertising techniques to help draw viewers and attendees to the actual church gatherings, meetings and even conferences that are hosted.

In just 1970 there were less than 10 mega-churches altogether. As of 2011, more than 1,611 mega-churches exist. The largest megachurch in the entire world to date is the Yoido Full Gospel Church, owned by David Yonggi Cho which is located in Seoul, South Korea. The church has an annual budget of $200 million and currently has more than 850,000 members actively enrolled.

U.S. MegaChurches

The biggest megachurch in the US today is the Lakewood Church, owned and operated by Joel Osteen in Houston, Texas. Each week, the church receives about 43,500 attendees and has a $70 million budget annually. The church itself is located within the Compaq Center, which was purchased in 2010 for $7.5 million.

LifeChurch.tv is another church that is located in Edmon, Oklahoma and it is considered the second largest megachurch in the US. LifeChurch.tv was founded by Craig Groschel and has approximately 42,782 weekly attendees. In 2012, the church had about $45,754,000 in expenses but took in about $71,338,000 from donations and charities. More than 100,000 unique viewers tune in to watch LifeChurch.tv each week from more than 120 countries altogether.

The third most popular megachurch in the US is North Point Community Church, owned and operated by Andy Stanley out of Alpharetta, Georgia. More than 27,000 members attend the church each week and the church has a total of $38.5 million for their annual budget.

In the US, the state of California has the most megachurches with 218. Texas has 207 megachurches with Florida following in third with 120 megachurches. Additionally, Georgia has 91 megachurches and Tennessee, 66.

Understanding how megachurches affect small-town American and religion today is a way to gain insight into the business while also finding a church that is right for you and your family. Megachurches continue to grow steadily, leaving the future of small churches unknown in America.

Source: www.onlinechristiancolleges.com

Zealot by Reza Aslan: A Review

There are a lot of narratives around this book.  Reza Aslan says mean things about atheists, Reza Aslan doesn’t have the credentials he says he has, Reza Aslan was mistreated abominably by Fox News, Reza Aslan is Muslim and that taints his ability to see clearly on the history of Jesus.  The thing is, none of these are about the book itself.  So I decided that I would read it.

072613_dotcom_aslan_640

There are a couple things you should know about my background here.  I am trained in historical methods, I have read most of the popularly available books about the history of Jesus and the New Testament written in the last decade, and I love the history of religions.  I am also an atheist.  My particular brand of atheism, as Christopher Hitchens would say, is very much a Protestant one, an Episcopal one at that.  There was no sturm und drang and little in the way of imposing dogma in my upbringing, I had possibly the least contentious relationship one can have with their religion while also not believing in it or understanding the point of it.

Unlike some, my particular atheism has no investment in the idea that a Jesus of some sort did or did not exist, and so no suspension of disbelief is necessary for me to accept the premise of the book.  Aslan doesn’t really address the question of Jesus’ existence, partially because it’s not really much of a controversy among historians.  Even if you don’t believe in a historical Jesus, however, it’s possible to read the book as a thought exercise.  Liberal Christians will also be able to reconcile the figure presented with their faith, to some extent.  Fundamentalists and Catholics, however, wouldn’t be able to do so, especially believers in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The story is basically as follows:

Jesus was a poor man from the tiny town of Nazareth who witnessed his homeland of Galilee impoverished, enslaved, and mistreated by Roman occupiers.  Around the age of 30, he became a disciple of John the Baptist, by far the more famous of the two at the time.  When John the Baptist was executed, Jesus struck out on his own with a message primarily aimed at overthrowing the Temple and the Roman Occupiers — he was attempting to radically reform Judaism and free the state of Israel.  He was killed for sedition against Rome.

He was one of dozens of miracle workers with remarkably similar stories, distinguishable mostly by the fact that, after his execution, his message was carried on by his surviving family and followers, particularly his brother James and, later, Paul. The reason Christianity lasted was because Paul changed it drastically from being a critique of Judaism to being a totally new religion, one that Jesus’ brother James did not approve of.  James was killed, as were his followers with the destruction of Jerusalem, meaning that the head of the church changed from being someone who knew the Nazarene and lived in his culture to being foreigners who’d only heard secondhand tales.  Christianity is Paul’s reimagining of historical Jesus, a sort of fanfiction version — the Fifty Shades of Grey to Jesus’ Twilight.

The book is not really new in terms of the history it offers, but it is the most readable history of first century Jerusalem that I’ve come across.  If you are only mildly interested in the subject or the subject is totally new to you, I cannot emphasize enough how fun it was to read.

Aslan goes to great lengths to reassure readers that the possibility of a divine Jesus still exists within this story, sometimes to the point of annoying this reader, but he also makes a good point about the difference between what modern people accept as history and what ancient people did and the difference between facts and truth.  Since the scientific revolution, facts and truth have become more or less synonymous to many people, but the stories told of Jesus were meant to reveal truth about him rather than be facts.  In the same way that parables are understood to be lessons about the real world, even if they didn’t happen.

Read an excerpt here.

Death Threats and other signs of Christian love

American Atheists caused a bit of a stir by putting up billboards criticizing religion up in Charlotte, NC, where the DNC convention is going to be held.

But there is good news for hateful bigots who use their religion to bludgeon other people with fear and loathing: all of the death threats and hate speech have worked.  Out of fear for safety, the billboard company and the American Atheists have both agreed that the billboards need to be taken down immediately.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny—and this includes religion in all forms,” Ms. Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

Teresa MacBain, American Atheists’ Public Relations Director said, “It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief. How can we grow as a nation when such censorship exists from our own citizens?”

I really hope that the American Atheists are in touch with the FBI, because this is incredibly uncool.  Even though I’m very disappointed that they have caved to the pressure of the threats, having been on the receiving end of death and rape threats, I can’t say that I blame them.  It just makes me angry.

These Christian assholes who claim moral superiority to the rest of the world and especially to atheists get so upset when someone questions their religious beliefs in public that they freak out and threaten to kill them.  Are you ready for the best part?  This is what the billboard said:

Christianity: Sadistic God, Useless Savior… Promotes hate, calls it love

I think it should be slightly amended:

Christianity: Sadistic followers promote hate, call it love

 

Marriage Equality is an issue with no valid middle ground

This could also be titled “how to get unfriended on Facebook”.  Always beware of someone asking “genuine, non-rhetorical questions” they want answers to from the opposing side.  Sometimes they don’t like your answer.  My former FB friend posted the following, in reference to an article by Michael Rowe:

I truly hope this opinion from one man doesn’t reflect the consensus of those who oppose Chick-Fil-A. Is there no room for nuanced or civilized debate that doesn’t resort to character assassination?

Here’s just a sample of how the Chick-Fil-A supporters who showed up on Wednesday are labeled: “(they are) a pageant of banal, cheerful deep-fried American hate, unified in bigotry and detestation of a group of their fellow Americans who were different from them.”

It gets worse when describing Dan Cathy, the owner of Chick-Fil-A: “He’s actually making millions from it, and he’s done it cynically, and at the expense of other human beings, then sharing that blood money with others like him, whose mandate isn’t holiness, but hatred, violence, division, and ostracism.”

Now here’s a genuine, non-rhetorical question I’m hoping to get answered by those who oppose Chick-Fil-A. Do you believe it’s possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a hateful bigot? Do you believe that all who oppose same-sex marriage follow a mandate of “hatred, violence, division, and ostracism” that trumps the dictates of Christian behavior?

I am not for redefining marriage, but I also have several gay friends who I love dearly and whose honor I would defend (physically if necessary) if I ever witnessed them being bullied or harassed because of their orientation or for any other reason. Is this love I feel for my friends automatically phony because I oppose same-sex marriage? Do I have deep hatred that’s even hidden from myself? I think not. Christ’s command to love is far too important for me to not take seriously as a dedicated Christian. God loves all his children unconditionally, and woe is any Christian who finds any reason not to love a person whom God loves.

Michael Rowe also makes a point to say that basically those who oppose same sex marriage are not practicing true Christianity. I don’t know if Rowe is a Christian himself, but biblically-based Christianity (Catholic or Protestant) has never supported the idea of same-sex marriage.

So Christians who actually believe in what is almost universally taught are labeled as bigots and phonies. Rowe has no authority to redefine beliefs systems about gender and sexuality and then declare them to be more Christian than what’s been traditionally the case.

Then let’s be clear. Anyone is free to disagree with, or even hate, Christianity if they feel so inclined. And as a lover of liberty I will fight to defend your legal right to smear Christianity six ways from Sunday. But if you think I am a bad Christian (or specifically bad Catholic), because I follow what my church teaches, you are simply wrong.

I know this country is deeply divided ideologically. But if we are to make any progress in bridging the divide it must start with a commitment to cast aside examples of false polarization. Between legalizing gay marriage and keeping it as the status quo is an entire spectrum of thoughtful and valuable opinion that doesn’t automatically involve degrees of ignorance, hatred, or bigotry.

But nuance doesn’t make for good sound bytes.

My answer that got me unfriended:

“Do you believe it’s possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a hateful bigot?”

I do not believe it is possible for someone to oppose same-sex marriage and not be a bigot. The denial of rights is inherently hateful. Saying I am better than you is hateful. Saying you aren’t quite a fully deserving human, but a lower caste member deserving of second-class citizenship is hateful. Saying my religion tells me to do this so I don’t care what your religion says, I’m going to make you follow my religion’s rules is inherently hateful. Saying love is wrong is hateful.

“Do you believe that all who oppose same-sex marriage follow a mandate of “hatred, violence, division, and ostracism” that trumps the dictates of Christian behavior?”

As I have seen many Christians who endorse that sort of behavior, I’m not sure I can say that they’re going against their dictates. I do not think they are necessarily violent, but telling a group of people their love is worth less than yours is, again, inherently hateful, divisive, and ostracizing.

“Is this love I feel for my friends automatically phony because I oppose same-sex marriage?”

If a white man has a lot of black friends who he loves dearly but flips his shit when his daughter dates a black man and thinks interracial marriage should be illegal, is his “love for his friends” automatically phony. No. It’s just really fucked up.

To those of us who support marriage equality, what Chick-fil-A and their supporters look like are people who protested integration of schools and the civil rights acts and allowing black people at the lunch counter. And in addition to discriminating against them for who they are, you are punishing them for having the most wonderful thing that a person can have: love.

If your religion wants to be cruel, fine, but don’t enshrine it in law. If you’re mad at invective, just remember how heartbroken those of us who think of gay people as fully human and deserving of happiness are to see them treated so badly. It’s so hard to watch every day, and it’s so hard to watch people get so excited and mean about it, it’s so hard to hear the word faggot and dyke thrown with such invective at people who are fundamentally decent, it’s so hard to see children whose parents aren’t allowed to marry or jointly adopt the child they are raising, it’s so hard to see people deported because their partner is of the same-sex and therefore they cannot get citizenship through marriage, it’s hard to see people say that these wonderful people are destroying America. It’s really hard. And if you really have a heart and can look at these people and say that that’s OK, well, you must not think they’re really people.

So yeah, people called Dan Cathy a bigot — but hey, at least they aren’t calling him a cocksucking faggot who will destroy America just because he is in love with the wrong person.

Addendum to that answer for the blog:

“Between legalizing gay marriage and keeping it as the status quo is an entire spectrum of thoughtful and valuable opinion that doesn’t automatically involve degrees of ignorance, hatred, or bigotry.”

There is no middle ground on the question of whether gays should have equal rights under the law.  There may be a middle ground in the debate Christians have over how bad gay people are, but that’s a separate question.  I’m sorry to be so blunt, but how you justify your bigotry isn’t thoughtful or valuable to anyone but other bigots.

I’d also add that the gentleman in question is a *good* Catholic, and that’s his problem — sometimes being a good Christian makes you a bad person.  It’s a shame, because he’s not a bad person, but he’s wrong and being wrong on this issue causes harm.

Texas Politician Blames Non-Christians for Shooting

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has taken the bold step of being the most prominent asshole to try to use the tragedy in Colorado to further a political agenda.  That political agenda is talk about how atheists are destroying the country.  From HuffPo:

“People say … where was God in all of this?” Gohmert said. “We’ve threatened high school graduation participations, if they use God’s name, they’re going to be jailed … I mean that kind of stuff. Where was God? What have we done with God? We don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.”

That’s right.  Someone like Max Nielson challenging his high school graduation prayer are the reason some cruel, heartless man shot dozens of people at a movie.  And Gohmert apparently lives in a strange alternate universe where people trying to get others not to force them to pray is exactly like sending someone to prison for saying the word “God”.

The tragedy is horrific enough, using it to score political points is despicable.

@replouiegohmert

Washington Office

Room: 511 Cannon HOB
Address: 2440 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3035

Texas Office

Address: 1121 ESE Loop 323, Ste 206
Tyler, TX 75701
Phone: 903-561-6349

 

 This is who is running against Rep Gohmert, if you’re curious: http://www.votemckellar.com/

 

Feminism, Privilege, and Learning About Humility

This is a guest post from Patrick Mitchell, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Ashley F. Miller

One year ago, after one of the most agonizing struggles of my life, I finally shook off the chains of fundamentalist Christianity, leaving me free to explore ideas in a way I never dreamt possible: in color.  You see, in Fundyland™, everything is black and white: You are for me or against me, men are the head, women serve. Sex outside marriage is evil, sex inside marriage is required.

Drinking “gender role” tripe for 10 years from fundamentalist Bible passages and pastors, alongside the idea that feminism is the devil, served to create a large barrier for me understanding feminism in a meaningful way much longer than it took me to understand homosexuality wasn’t a sin, or that enjoying sex is natural.

Also, I’m male.

I have been wanting to distill my thoughts about feminism in the context of my atheism for some time, and on the year anniversary of my freedom, I figured it would be a good occasion.  This is an expansion of the thoughts I had on my own blog, and Ashley (who has strongly influenced my own feminism in positive ways) was gracious enough to allow me the opportunity for this platform.

Misogyny Is Everywhere

“Grow a pair,” “Man Up,” “Pansy,” are phrases that misogynist and Fundyland™ culture uses to denigrate the feminine and elevate the masculine.  Phrases I used to use without a moment’s thought that state unabashedly “Men are strong, women are weak.” And yet this could not be further from the truth.  I have seen women with more strength of character and resolve than dozens of men: these claims are demonstrably false.

Anita Sarkeesian’s series on Tropes vs. Women served to help me realize just how much misogyny has infected our culture, such that it is nearly hidden from view.  Traditional gender roles, defined by the apostle Paul and ignorantly parroted across the world today, are inherently sexist and entirely stupid. There is absolutely no reason why “Men are the head of the household” should be taken for granted.  In fundamentalism, everything is black and white.  In reality, there is color.

Women have the right to function in a relationship as they desire to define themselves. I have no right, no recompense, nor stature with which to demand (or even suggest) the way in which two genders interact with one another.  When one realizes that sexuality and gender itself is fluid, the archaic notion of ‘roles’ should promptly be defenstrated from any rational person’s mind.

And thus, I must continue to fight against my own past, the small-mindedness of my fundamentalist background, to see the opposite sex as a full human, lacking in nothing, whose values and expertise must and should be evaluated on her terms, not on mine.

I Am Privileged

The thing about the word privilege, is that its one of those things that is nearly impossible to understand until you’ve experienced life without it.  When I lost my faith, but more specifically when I became public about it, I learned what its like to be in the minority of wordview, to have people hate and judge me based on something fundamentally outside my control.

It’s not the same, but it knocked me down enough notches to recognize I was too stupid, too arrogant, and too blind to really know how well I had it.  This is the fundamental idea of privilege, be it white, male, cis, or rich (all of which I am).  Therefore I have an uphill battle to recognize it in myself.

The first time my own privilege reared its head was when I first read about Watsongate (in an uninformed rant on /r/atheism).  I thought it was the most infantile reaction, and was behind Dawkins for calling out what was clearly a childish plea for attention.

Then I read about Watsongate from Ashley’s perspective.  Thanks to the SSA here in our meager town of Columbia, SC, I knew Ashley personally and was more likely to respect what she had to say. She isn’t the type of person that gets behind idiots with bad ideas, so I read.  And I learned about Schrodinger’s rapist, and started to realize I’ve never felt fearful for my sexual identity being violated, and very rarely have I been objectified in a way that made me uncomfortable.  Then I learned about the statistics, numbers that run through feminists’ minds, that had never crossed my own.

And then it hit me: I didn’t know, and couldn’t know, what it feels like to be threatened.

So in the face of this fact, I did what any good skeptic should: withhold judgement, assess the facts, and change my mind if the facts deem it so.  And thus, I did.

The Skeptic Community Needs Feminism

First, let me say that I don’t use the word “need” to say that feminists need me, or anyone, to achieve their goals, in any way that denigrates their role or prior achievements.  Nor am I at all mature in this movement, so my commentary must come with a grain of salt.

But in this past year, after reading about the Rebecca Watson incident, after what The Amazing Atheist said, and the current debacle over TAM’s reporting policy, it is clear that there is a need for the voices of those who are actually aware and affected by the issues to speak up, and to have the attention of everyone when they say something.  On blogs, posts, walls, reddit threads, everywhere in the skeptic movement it is clear that there is a man-child level of misogyny that rivals our fundamentalist foes: women are routinely denigrated, slut-shamed, and recognized for their ability to reproduce rather than the quality and content of their discourse.  Ashley has obliged before on this issue.

This is a problem. A hill that the community faces, that will bring it to a grinding halt if we don’t take a step back and address the issues.  I would prefer that we all just became aware that calling people ‘cunt,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘slut,’ etc. is bigoted and stupid, but at the very least we should continue fighting to enact policies that protect the speech of sexual harassment whistleblowers.

The sad thing is, we look more like the religious than than skeptics and freethinkers when we treat one another this way.

The US Needs Feminism

The recent string of back-woods Bible-fueled insanity in this country highlight the need for us to shape the discourse of our nation towards recognizing misogyny and feminist-sensitive issues.  The uptick across several states in invasive and psychologically damaging procedures to dissuade (and disparage) women who seek abortions from having them in incredibly humiliating ways.

The Catholic Leagues attempt to take away women’s health rights by masking legalized suffering in religious terms means that atheist feminists are uniquely qualified to answer both questions: It is not alright to force women to suffer, and especially not because of a 2000-year-old delusional fairy tale.

Across this country, there are senators and Congressmen who have been elected who are so steeped in their own privilege as to render them incapable of representing 51% of the voting muscle of the nation.  This is a problem, and should be recognized and addressed by those of us with minds and eyes enough to see the problem.

Seeing in Color

After this year, I can recognize the beauty that is feminism, and the demon of my own ingorance that I need to continually stab until it rears its ugly head no more.  In my small way, I seek to educate others about the journey I’ve had and what it’s taught me.  To be sure, there are irrational sexists out there who would masquerade under the title of feminism, but their rantings do not make the issues any less important or real.  I have to check my privilege at the door to continue this conversation, and thanks to people like Ashley, Greta Christina, Sikivu Hutchenson, the Godless Bitches, and many others, I’m learning.

And I want to continue this conversation, for a long, long time.

About The Author


Patrick Mitchell is a 27-year old Electrical Engineering Ph.D. Student at University of South Carolina.  He became a Christian at age 16 and studied theology and apologetics, was president of USC’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and served as a lay minister and worship leader in multiple congregations.  His interests include History, Theology, Philosophy, Music, Engineering, and Psychology.  He blogs at his personal website, the Coffee Shop Atheist, writes for his School Newspaper, and is an officer of The Pastafarians @ USC, a SSA affiliate group.

Send an Atheist to Church: Ashley survives Brookland Baptist Church

As part of a fundraising effort for a cancer charity, the local Pastafarians at USC group took donations, in exchange for which the atheist members agreed to be sent to church.  I was sent, along with three other students, to Brookland Baptist church, in West Columbia, SC.

Brookland Baptist Church

I have not been to church in a long time. The closest I’ve been in the last five years is probably the local Unitarian Universalist fellowship, but as their minister is an atheist, I’m not sure how much that counts.  I have actually been to Brookland Baptist before, at the very end of 2006, when John Edwards was speaking there.  I was highly skeptical of him, but after seeing him demand healthcare for all and declare we needed a way to be patriotic besides war, I absolutely fell in love.  Which turned out real well.

Back to the church:

Brookland Baptist Church is a largely African American megachurch, founded in 1902. On Sunday, not only are the parking lots full, but the lots across the street are not enough. The church claims 5,300 members, seats 1,600 on the floor and 500 in the balcony.

Dove with laser beams

I arrived before my fellow heathens and had to wait outside for them.  Initially, I was quite self-conscious because everyone was staring at me, but when I realized it was just because I was the only white person there, not because I was an atheist, it became less worrisome.  For better or for worse, church services seem to be very heavily segregated.  Just as you’d only find one or two African-Americans at your average Episcopalian service, you’ll only find one or two white people at your average Baptist service.  They were, despite the staring, very nice and friendly.

The rest of the cohort arrived and we were sent up to the balcony because one of our members wanted to film some of the service.  I was a little disappointed not to be in the middle of the throng of people, but also relieved that no one would be judging me for being on Facebook during the boring parts.

And boy were there boring parts!

I am a temporally minded person and therefore was already highly irked that the service started 15 minutes late.  I was even more irked when it turned out that the service lasted nearly two and a half hours.  I would have much rather re-watched The Hunger Games with that time!  How someone sits through that every Sunday is beyond me.

Aside from the absurd length, I didn’t really note too many significant differences in the structure and audience participation than the last time I went to an Episcopalian service.  Admittedly, that service was at one of the churches that left the American Episcopalian church to join the Rwandan one because they hate gays so much, but you know, Episcopalianish.  Brookland did, however, have one of the best announcement voices I’ve ever heard — it was like the “In a world” voice, but he was just reading the locations and dates of events.  It was awesome.

This is the song that never ends

There was a lot of singing.  Interminable singing while the collection plate went around.  As much as comedians joke around that the Anglican church is joyless, but the Baptist church goes crazy with the music, there was no evidence of that.  The musak style choir songs were not joyful, just very long.  Fortunately, I had a book, since we were subjected to what probably added up to over an hour of this.

We were, however, very fortunate to have attended the day that we did because the focus was on education and they were recognizing the scholastic achievements of their students.  I don’t know what there normal services and sermons look like, but this was a perfect illustration of how important churches are to the minority community here.  It’s heartwarming to see an institution take so much time and effort to help children succeed and overcome the shortcomings of their schools and local environments.  It is a real shame that, in most cases, the only place they can find this support is in churches.  I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, secularists need to pick up minority causes — they are basic human rights issues and we should be on the front lines supporting them.

The church gave out scholarships to graduating high school seniors, and then had a college graduate come and deliver the speech for the day.  Anrae Jamon Motes graduated from MIT in 2010 and currently works as a consultant; he came to give advice to students in the congregation.  He was fantastic.

Motes plays with legos; I love the internet

The entire thrust of the speech was about using education to empower yourself, especially economically.  This is an important message to this community, a community that does not generally have economic power.  He did not really talk about religion until the very end of the speech, where he focused on the support system that the church had given him.  Truly it is not faith that changes these people’s lives, but the actions and support of this community, and that’s something that is quite moving.

That said, he did give some of the credit to Jesus, but I was very impressed by how pragmatic and practical the overall message of the entire day was.  This was not a day about God’s achievements, it was a day about people’s achievements, and much more enticing to an outsider for being so.

At the very end, the deacon made a call for people to join at a protest/celebration for the arrest that has finally come in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.  There was a general call for people to be more proactive, to do more than just talk and complain and protest, to actually get out there and vote to change things.  Their goal is to empower people through evangelism, education, and economic change and they emphasized that their community “is about more than winning souls for Christ, it’s about changing lives.”  And to that I can certainly say, “Amen.”

Why “In God We Trust” is a Problem

¡Delicioso!

During the Spanish Inquisition, Catholics would find Jews by looking to see who ate pork.  They’d offer pork to people they suspected of being Jewish, and if they refused to eat it, they were arrested.  Because in the 1400s the only real Spaniard was a Catholic Spaniard.  There was a holy war aimed at getting rid of the unwanted.

There was a holy war in the United States, too, in the 1950s.  There was a man named Joe McCarthy and he waged a holy war against the atheists.  “Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity,” Joe McCarthy, 1950.

At the start, let me make clear that in my opinion no special credit is due those of us who are making an all-out fight against this Godless force-a force which seeks to destroy all the honesty and decency that every Protestant, Jew and Catholic has been taught at his mother’s knee. It is a task for which we can claim no special credit for doing. It is one which we are obligated to perform. It is one of the tasks for which we were brought into this world-for which we were born. If we fail to use all the powers of mind and body which God gave us, then I am sure our mothers, wherever they are tonight, may well sorrow for the day of our birth…

Jesus wants me to further my political career by being a jerk

Government officials were put on trial, torn apart for anything that seemed vaguely related to atheism, communism, homosexuality, or not quite being patriotic enough.  Many lost their careers and were unable to find work, some were wrongfully imprisoned on laws that were later overturned as unconstitutional — often on the basis of incredibly flimsy evidence and accusations from people with personal motives.

Perhaps you remember HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, which created lists of people who weren’t considered American enough — American in this case meaning Christian Non-Commies.  Over 300 artists were boycotted by Hollywood after being put on HUAC’s blacklist and only 10% of them were able to rebuild careers.  HUAC did local witch-hunts to ferret out people they didn’t like, making sure communities could shun them as Un-American.  Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”, about the Salem Witch Trials, was inspired by the way HUAC treated people.  It was truly a witch-hunt and the offenders were Godless.

It is thanks to McCarthyism and HUAC that the phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and the phrase “In God We Trust” was adopted as the national motto in 1956, over the previous, all-inclusive motto “E Pluribus Unum” — Out of Many, One.  Before the 1950s, the national motto said that the nation was stronger thanks to the many different kinds of people who made up the country; after the 1950s, the national motto said that the nation was stronger because of a Christian God.

To be clear, God was added to the Pledge and as a motto in the 1950s not because of a strong devotion to religion but out of a desire to find and punish atheists.

The House has just overwhelmingly reaffirmed the phrase “In God We Trust” as the national motto.  A completely unnecessary move as George W. Bush signed a law in 2002 reaffirming it as the national motto, along with reaffirming “under God” in the pledge.  Congress reaffirmed it as the national motto 5 years ago.  2 years ago, the phrase was added to the Capitol visitor center.  And this ridiculous vote in the middle of economic crisis that Congress has repeatedly failed to address effectively?  OK, so Congress likes God, now can they please get around to liking their constituents?

Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job

What drives me crazy is the refusal of the American people and the political establishment to recognize that the so-called tradition of God as part of these things only dates back to the 50s.  Everyone seems to think that they were established at the beginning of the country, not as part of a witch-hunt.  And they additionally refuse to recognize that not only is it conflating church and state, it is also endorsing the behavior of McCarthy and HUAC.  SCOTUS on this issue:

It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise. – Aronow v. United States, 1970

It has everything to do with establishing atheists as a second-class group of citizens and tacitly endorsing McCarthy’s persecution of those he called “Godless”.  If the government is not embarrassed by the blatant disregard of the Establishment Clause, it could at least show the good sense to be embarrassed by Joseph McCarthy.

Questions I Need Answers to from Christians

How do you resolve the question of suffering? Why do so many people suffer for no apparent reason? Does anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus go to hell? If it’s “free will”, why are we made so poorly in the first place?

Do you think homosexuals are evil? Is the bible literal? Do you think that committing genocide is OK (the flood)? Do you think evolution is false? How do you reconcile contradictions in the Bible? How do you see revelation, do you think the world is going to end and Jesus is going to come back? Should women be silent and obey men? Is polygamy OK or not?

Why do you believe in a god? Why do you believe specifically in the Christian god? Why is Christianity different than the thousands of other faiths that are incredibly similar?

Do you believe that government should be secular or faith based? How do you feel about capital punishment? Was Peter right or was Paul when it comes to the question of following the old laws? Can you wear cloth of mixed fiber? Is slavery OK, because the bible says that it is?

How can a god who is so constantly described as being jealous and having other human foibles and flaws also be described as perfect? How can he commit genocide and destroy cities and people in wrath and also be all-loving and good?

Where did Cain’s wife come from? Was it incest all the way down the ages? Do you think the earth is 6000 years old, like Bishop Usher said?

Why did Jesus kill the fig tree? Why is Judas condemned for doing the one thing absolutely necessary to lead to Jesus’ resurrection?

Do you agree with the church’s policy of torturing and killing Jews? Do you agree with the church’s support of Hitler? Do you agree with the church’s murder of innocent women accused of witchcraft? Do you believe in witchcraft? How do you think the guy who owned the pigs felt when Jesus infected them with demons and drove them off the cliff?

Why do you think the texts included in the New Testament are true and the ones excluded are not? Have you read the lost gospels, have you read the early gospels, have you done any historical research on the origin of the books in the bible? Why would God send his son to a place with a bunch of illiterate desert people instead of to the Chinese?

Do you think it’s reasonable to kill dozens of children for making fun of a bald guy? Is killing all innocent firstborn in Egypt reasonable? Is rape acceptable? Why does Jesus say he will return in the lifetime of his followers?

How can anyone with one of these horrible, painful, easily broken and incredibly gross human bodies possibly believe in “intelligent” design? Everyone’s body sucks. They get sick, they fail, they get old, they get flabby, with hair in places you don’t want, and often no hair in places you do want, it’s easily poisoned, depressed, scarred, destroyed, and doesn’t last very long. Add to that the millions of common diseases that make people miserable — allergies, asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease — and the minor irritations we face almost daily — bad vision, imperfect hearing, imperfect memory, itches, aches, indigestion, heartburn, constipation, sore feet, smelliness, and moodiness — how can anyone believe in a good god?

I don’t understand religion part 923

How can a person hold these two thoughts in their head?

1. The universe is too complex to simply exist, it must have been created

2. God, something so complex it can create and control universes, doesn’t require a creator

It seems to me that you can have two viewpoints that are internally consistent.  You can believe either:

1. Complicated things can exist without a creator, allowing the possibility of a universe without a creator and the possibility of God or

2. Everything complicated requires a creator, demanding a creator of the universe but denying the possibility of God at the same time

I just had this question with someone who is not a stupid person.  I know that atheist readers sometimes have difficulty grasping that not stupid people can believe in God, I myself have that difficulty at times, but I just cannot understand the complete lack of logic there.  Not only that, but the inability of the person in question to grasp the logic fail of saying that “everything must have a cause, except God” which means that not everything must have a cause, which means there’s no need for God.

Here is a place where it is laid out in much fuller detail, but if anyone can explain to me how those two thoughts exist inside the head of a not stupid person, please do, because he sure couldn’t.