Today’s show: The Prosperity Gospel

Today, on the Atheist Experience, I’ll be talking about the Prosperity Gospel. I thought I’d post a couple of interesting links about it, in case people want to explore on their own:

Feel free to comment on the show on this thread.

One less religious deception in Austin

The Austin City Council unanimously passed an ordinance yesterday that would require “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” to post information about what services they do and do not offer. These centers have sprung up around the country in recent years with billboards targeting pregnant and desperate teenagers. While posing to help people in a challenging situation, these fake clinics are only in existence to manipulate the victim into having the child. They do not provide contraception or information about contraception. Another impact they have is that they delay the decision, thus making getting an abortion more difficult. The ordinance partially addresses the problem by making it a bit clearer to the victim of what they’re getting into. From the ordinance:

The Owner or Operator of a Limited Service Pregnancy Center shall prominently display, at the entrance of the Center, two black and white signs, one in English and one in Spanish, that state as follows: “This center does not provide abortions or refer to abortion providers. This center does not provide or refer to providers of U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved birth control drugs and medical devices.”

I hope other communities follow suit.

Religion is abuse, pure and simple. Just check Twitter.

Today on Twitter, one of the big trending memes is “Without God”. Hordes of theists right now are tweeting what they think life would be like if Sky Daddy weren’t around to hold their hand, with the words “Without God” somewhere in the tweet (which is how people get topics trending). The most common tweets are the most disheartening, because they demonstrate with crystal clarity that the most effective tool religion has for keeping people docile and compliant is the utter destruction of their personal esteem. Seriously, what other than religion could get people so eager to boast of their personal worthlessness? Here are actual examples.

@Periyon Without God I have nothing else to live for…

@mandyymanders Without God I would have nothing.

@SupaBaddizI Without God I am nothin, have nothin, && will never be able to accomplish nothin!

@Rieno2 Without God, I wouldn’t know how it feels to LIVE…

@iLoveMJ147 Without God I am nothing.

@BellaKerber Without God, life has no meaning ..

@PeAce_SteLLa Without God : I’m NOTHING ! ! ! ! !

@taylormatthews Without God there can be no knowledge, good, evil, hope or joy.

@DJFoRenZic_JA: Without god, there is no life!

@iK00lKiDd Without God there is no me…

@nanamarie87 Without God i could do nothing…be nothing

And it just goes on and on and on like that. Thousands upon thousands of people, eager to devalue themselves. “I suck! I’m worthless! I’m nothing, nothing, nothing…without GOD.”

This is quite possibly the most unspeakable form of brainwashing a person can endure. It is what George H. Smith in Atheism: The Case Against God is talking about when he states that Christianity has “a vested interest in human misery.” First, convince the believer of their innate lack of value. Get them to believe that there is nothing good about themselves in any way, shape or form. Then offer them a thin straw of hope: God can give you worth. Sure, you’re a completely undeserving piece of shit, but no worries. If you pray and genuflect and abase yourself just enough, he might — if he happens to be in a good mood that day — might condescend to let you past the velvet rope into his Heaven. What’s that? You say you answered the altar call at church? Well, that’s great and everything, but you know, that still might not be good enough. Because without God you’re nothing, you miserable little shitstain! So just remember that.

By this time, you have the believer so utterly intimidated they’re afraid of their own shadow. Even the tiniest scrap of joy they experience in life, they’ll be damn sure to credit immediately to their God, just to make sure they don’t fall out of favor.

You know who else uses these kinds of brainwashing techniques? Abusive spouses. “Without me you’re nothing” is the biggest hammer in the toolkit of the controlling, abusive partner. It’s why abused women don’t leave their men when you’d think all common sense would have them fleeing at the first opportunity. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome. And it’s why it’s so difficult to use reason when arguing with believers about their beliefs. You’re calmly and soberly trying to lay out objective facts, while they’re thinking that if what you say is true, then they’re doomed to a worthless, miserable void of a life, because THEY. ARE. NOTHING.

When you read these tweets, you should understand that when Dawkins refers to the religious indoctrination of children as child abuse, he isn’t fucking around. These tweeters are folks who grew up with that indoctrination into an adulthood defined in its entirety by fear and self-loathing. They hate themselves, pure and simple, and see no pleasure in anything their brief time on this earth can offer them if it cannot be attached in some way to their God.

If this parade of misery isn’t all the reason you need to stand against religion, I don’t know what else is. And any accommodationist who tells me religion should be “respected” even though I don’t believe it will frankly get a swift kick to the jewels. Are you going to tell me to “respect” wife beating even though I’d never do it?

Philip Pullman’s newest isn’t likely to end up a fundie favorite

If Christians had a rough time with Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ, I don’t quite see them lining up to buy the latest from Golden Compass author and staunch heathen Philip Pullman. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, releasing May 20 in the US, is described thus:

…the remarkable new piece of fiction from best-selling and famously atheistic author Philip Pullman. By challenging the events of the gospels, Pullman puts forward his own compelling and plausible version of the life of Jesus, and in so doing, does what all great books do: makes the reader ask questions.

In Pullman’s own words, “The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”

Written with unstinting authority, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a pithy, erudite, subtle, and powerful book by a controversial and beloved author. It is a text to be read and reread, studied and unpacked, much like the Good Book itself.

Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, depicting a war against God, is a modern fantasy classic, and if your only exposure to it is the well-intentioned but murkily executed Golden Compass film from a couple of years back, you owe it to yourself to check out the books themselves. They’re very much the anti-Narnia. In this video clip, Pullman responds with simple honesty to a question about Christians finding his new book offensive.

I’ll be putting my pre-order in.

Denyse O’Leary supplants Ray Comfort as World’s Stupidest Christian™

After holding the title courageously for most of his adult life, Ray Comfort has been forced to relinquish his unofficial designation of World’s Stupidest Christian™. Meet the newly crowned title-holder, Denyse O’Leary, whose risible record of attempted evolution denial has leveled up into heretofore unexplored realms of awesomeness with this quoted passage, which simply must be read to be believed. Warning: you will lose about 20 IQ points just reading this, but the fact you won’t be able to stop laughing for a week should, one hopes, compensate.

Congratulations, Denyse, the new reigning World’s Stupidest Christian™! Take a bow.

Will he do it?

I know I have said many times atheists ought to ignore the farcical spectacle that is Ray Comfort, but this one was too good to pass up. A viewer has emailed us reporting that over at Ray’s blog, a reader calling himself “imadallasguy” has left this comment:

Ray,

A good way you could honor your Saviour and the sacrifice He made for you would be to call in live tomorrow to the Atheist Experience of Austin show which airs live on Easter Sunday at 4:00PM CST.

He did so much for you. What a sweet and blessed thing it would be for you to honor Him in return by calling in to the show, so that His word could go out to all the unbelieving world.

I’ll be listening for your soothing voice tomorrow.

In reply, Ray loaded up the .50-cal Bullshit SMG and set it on full auto.

imadallasguy…All they have to do is ask. I would be honored to go on their program. I don’t want to invite myself.

Gee, if I had a dollar bill for all the times Matt has told me he’s attempted — right there in the comment sections of Ray’s own blog — to get Ray to agree to some face time, I’d have…well, probably about twelve bucks. Whatever, the point is, he knows full well he’s been “asked”.

So here is the comment I just left, which I reproduce here just in the event it somehow fails to make its way out of Ray’s moderation queue, thus enabling him to keep claiming he’d love to talk to us, we’ve just never asked him. (Perhaps some of you ought to visit that thread and back imadallasguy up on his call-in request, eh? Godless eyes are watching!)

Ray: imadallasguy…All they have to do is ask. I would be honored to go on their program. I don’t want to invite myself.

As one of the rotating cohosts of The Atheist Experience, I say consider yourself asked. You are formally invited to phone in tomorrow, or on any Sunday afternoon it is convenient for you, from 4:30-6:00 PM CST. The number is 512-477-2288, and the earlier in the program you call, our phone screener will make sure you’re pushed to the front of the queue. We look forward to hearing from you.

I am also aware that our host, Matt Dillahunty, has made debate overtures to you several times, often right here in the comments of your blog. So I find it curious you say you’ve never been approached by any of us. Still, I understand you’re a busy man, so perhaps you’ve forgotten.

Who’ll start the betting?


Addendum, one hour later: Ray did post my comment.


Second addendum: Well, fuck. Apparently the show’s not on tomorrow, and Joe didn’t find out until yesterday, and (bit where I jumped Joe’s case for not letting us know before Saturday deleted, because that was done in frustration and thus uncool, sorry). So I’ll have to leave another comment informing Ray of this, and making sure he knows the offer’s open. Not that I expect him to call, still. Sorry, gang.

Proof of Miracles Tonight on 20/20

I just saw a blurb on television that tonight on 20/20 they’re going to demonstrate real miracles. From the look of it, it appears they’re going to use healing as their thrust. One quote from the show they shared was a theist saying you have to differentiate between miracles and magic. Really? And how exactly do we do that–since a miracle would have to be magic rather than the result of natural cause and effect?

And on a side note–thanks to Don for keeping up the April Fool’s Day blog tradition!

God says pedophila ok

Dateline: April 1, 2010 – The Vatican. Pope Benedict XVI issued a decree today saying that pedophilia is not a sin. According to the decree, the Roman Catholic Church no longer bears any responsibility for the ongoing child molestation scandal that has rocked the Church in the United States, Ireland, and several other countries for several decades. The decree was issued Ex Cathedra, which according to Roman Catholic Church dogma, is the result of divine intervention and protected from the possibility of error by God Himself.

Ex Cathedra decrees are rare, but this particular one may have been unique. The Pope himself is alleged to have shared the details of his conversation with God with his most trusted cardinals. A Vatican insider, speaking on the condition of anonymity explained what happened. “The Pope was in his cell praying and begging repentance for his role in the ongoing scandal for the ten thousandth time. Then he came out saying, ‘God doesn’t give a shit’.” The Pope was reportedly shaken but overjoyed by the unusual revelation.

Vatican accountant Father Guido Cartamoneta expressed relief over the momentous pronouncement. “It’s a great day for the Catholic Church. This resolves all of these issues that have been hanging over our head for so long. It’s just in time for the Easter donation season!”

Former Cardinal Bernard Law of the Boston Diocese also expressed his pleasure over the announcement. “I feel vindicated for my role in moving priests between posts. Maybe now life will return to normal and can get back to the business of filling our youth with the Holy Spirt.”

Information from a Viewer

Someone sent us this link today, and I want to alert people to this.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/03/31/saudi.arabia.sorcery/index.html?hpt=Sbin

“Lebanese man charged with sorcery and sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be beheaded on Friday, the man’s lawyer said Wednesday.”

I don’t know if there is anything anyone can do–but I feel helpless and desperate for this person. I can’t imagine being in this situation. And I have no idea what could possibly be done by an anyone to assist. All I can offer is relaying the story for public awareness.