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.

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.”

The Vatican: A Nation of Sexual Perverts

It seems that the Vatican has been in the news a lot lately. It appears that the Pope was personally involved in a pedophilia cover up. A scandal has broken in Brazil. There’s an international inquiry into a Catholic cult and its sexual-predator leader who was a favorite of John Paul. A Vatican homosexual prostitution ring was exposed. Given the frequency and longevity of these problems, one can be certain there are systematic problems with the Catholic Church and its leadership.

It seems very clear to me that the sexual perversions of the Catholic Church are systematic, of their own making, and that they are powerless to fix them. Let’s take a look at the contributing causes.

  1. Sexual control. The Vatican would like to control everyone’s sexuality. Most people don’t like to be controlled and people will be sexual despite attempts at control. One of the side effects of abstinence-only sex education and virginity pledges, for example, was that teenagers opted for “porn star sex,” to circumvent the control. The Vatican has mandated the missionary position and prohibited condoms for its laity to increase the number of potential future tithers. In the US, most Catholics ignore such mandates. Priests don’t get to ignore the Vatican, so they have to find their outlets somewhere outside the realm of normal sexuality.
  2. Guilt. Promoting guilt has been a holy cash cow for the Vatican. Believers are held to an unreasonable standard of being “without sin.” They fail by design and have to confess their sins and receive penance. The mechanism reinforces the guilt and binds the believers closer to the church. The vicious cycle perpetuates with the church gaining control over the believer. When guilt is combined with sexuality, it can become part of the fetish. Forbidden fruit is sweeter and the more forbidden, the better. Promoting guilt about sex has the inevitable consequence of warping sexuality.
  3. False hope. A person who is aware he has a problem will gravitate to an institution that purports to have a solution. By promising an omnipotent entity that can solve any problem, the Vatican draws in the people who are most desperate for a “cure.” Such people are most likely to embrace the dogma and blame themselves when it fails. From an outside perspective, it is clear that the Vatican has yet to “cure” anyone.
  4. Convenient cover. Positions of authority and trust provide the best cover for someone who should not be trusted. Such a person can abuse the authority while publicly condemning exactly what he is doing in private. If a predator has risen high enough in the ranks, he can even use his authority to ensure he will never be investigated or, if he is, avoid damaging penalties. The recent case of Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado is just one example.
  5. Temptation. Any organization playing a public service role will provide many opportunities for interaction with people who can be easily persuaded to “return a favor.” Service organizations that focus on children are naturally going to attract pedophiles.
  6. Abuse of power. By playing the role of “father” and “the representative of God,” priests have a variety of ways of manipulating the victim. Threat of God’s wrath can make a potent silencer. Most victims have already given the church a great deal of control over their lives. It is very difficult to extract ones self from such a web. Even if a victim is steadfast in defending himself or herself, he or she can be bullied by agreeing to be silent in exchange for a payoff. A less powerful organization would not have the luxury of this bullying. Most people who donate to a church are not aware of the percentage of their “charitable donations” are used to perpetuate abuse. Moving abusive priests between churches is an obvious abuse of power. So is actively obstructing investigations, as the Pope has done. He even claimed diplomatic immunity as head of the Vatican to evade a lawsuit.
  7. Evasion of responsibility. The Vatican’s response to the pedophilia scandal has been a long study in the art of responsibility evasion. The Vatican has blamed the victims, gays, the “permissive culture” of the United States, gays again, the devil, and gays. They have whined that the abuse scandal interferes with their “charity work.” They have whined about the cost of reparations and how they can’t afford it and they will go bankrupt. They have insisted that church-state separation allows them to do anything they want without consequences. They have said they were unaware that pedophilia was harmful to the victims. They have blamed the moral character of the priests (deflecting from the systematic cover up). They have pretended to self-police. They have prayed, confessed, and invoked God. They have cried “religious persecution.” They have claimed that other professions have just as many pedophiles. I don’t know of anything they haven’t done or said to deflect responsibility for their problem. The Vatican is quick, however, to make pronouncements about sex or condoms while claiming moral authority from God. Such ballsy displays of hypocrisy should lead to worldwide ridicule – not blind subservience.
  8. Complicity of the laity. Despite decades of controversy, Catholic laity still funds the church. Such people clearly care more about magic crackers than their fellow human beings. Non-Catholic Christians have also abetted the crimes of the Catholic Church through the bogus concept of religious tolerance and “thou shalt not judge.” This complicity has meant that the systematic abuses of the Catholic Church in the US have gone largely unpunished by the US legal system. Fortunately, other countries value their citizens above long-standing pedophile rings. Perhaps some justice will come from Europe.

Of these eight causes, the first six are intimately tied with the Catholicism. It is unlikely these causes will ever change. The last two are more about how the public responds to the abuse. While the Catholic Church will always be a spawning ground for sexual perversion, public outcry has some potential to limit the power of the Catholic Church and reduce its numbers. There is clearly no God available to clean up their mess, but the proper application of secular laws and lawsuits can go a long way to cleaning up this festering problem and reducing the number of future victims.

Jon Stewart on Texas SBOE

Last night, The Daily Show did a bit on the Texas State Board of Education (4 minutes). If you’ve been following along, it’s worth watching. There’s so much wrong with the Board of Education, that they could have easily done a week-long comedy marathon. They focused on the controversy surrounding Oscar Romero as being worthy of textbook mention.

A number of people have written us to ask where is our outrage at the SBOE. We’re outraged, but perhaps we realize, we’re powerless in the short term to stop the crazy. They’ve proven they’re immune to criticism or facts. We hope that during the next election, we oust a few of the creationists and get the SBOE back to its educational mission.

For now, laughter is good therapy.

Kathleen Johnson: “A Place at the Table”

Here’s the video from a recent ACA Lecture Series lecture with Kathleen Johnson, titled “A Place at the Table.”

On February 26th, 2010, Kathleen Johnson, American Atheists Vice President and Military Director and the founder of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, spoke at a historic meeting with the Obama administration at the nation’s capital. The event, organized by the Secular Coalition for America, focused on three issues: faith based medical neglect, proselytizing in the military, and administration support for faith based initiatives. This occasion was a prime example of how a variety of different secular groups can unite for a common cause and accomplish significant political actions. Ms. Johnson will speak about her experiences with “having a seat at the table” and the importance of effectively setting aside political and positional differences to effectively advocate for common causes.

“A Place at the Table”

Mp3 audio is available here.

Update on Andrew Wakefield

In an earlier post, I drew attention to the anti-vax hero Andrew Wakefield. Today’s Austin American Statesman reported that Wakefield has left his executive director position at the Austin-based Thoughtful House Center for Children that he helped found. It’s possible that they can rehabilitate their reputation without him. Late last month, Wakefield was found “irresponsible” by the British General Medical Council for performing unnecessary invasive tests on children. He also “flouted the rules in pursuit of his theory – and profit”. A hearing in April will determine whether he is guilty of misconduct. If he is found guilty, he could be stripped of his medical license.

A Suicide Note I Empathize With

Today, a man flew a small plane into a building in Austin. It’s captured our attention for most of the day. It turns out that the pilot was very frustrated and did what is effectively a suicide attack on an IRS office. He also torched his own house with his wife and child in it. It appears that one of his intents was to get the world to read his suicide note. His drastic measures have proven successful.

Although I can’t understand or endorse what he did, I found a lot in his note that I agreed with. The main theme was about how so much of American life is gamed by the big guys and how little power the little guy has to stop it. He railed against tax codes that exploited his profession, health care, the legal code, the political system that fails to represent the people, and the Catholic church. He called the church “vulgar” and “corrupt” and bemoaned the fact that they have received tax exemptions that helped make them wealthy. I agree completely with the spirit of his complaints, even though I don’t understand the details of his situation.

I’m a reasonably intelligent guy and I cannot for the life of me figure out why the United States gives a tax exemption to the Catholic Church. The Church seems to exemplify the rigged system that we labor under. They have run a pedophile ring for decades in multiple countries and done everything in their power to evade responsibility. I’ve written about this before. Yes, some priests have received the justice they deserved, but to date none of the scheming hierarchy has seen the inside of a court, let alone a jail. The Catholic Church is a criminal organization that should have its assets seized under the RICO (racketeering) law until a full investigation can be performed. The assets of the church should be used to benefit its victims. I simply cannot fathom why they are still receiving a tax exemption.

To add insult to injury, the Pope has evaded a law suit in the pedophile scandal by claiming diplomatic immunity. Some people think he’s the head of some state. Ok. If they want to play that card, then let’s make all of the Catholic hierarchy Vatican citizens and revoke their US passports. They clearly have little respect for US law and they’re only following orders, like good little immoral soldiers they are. If they are convicted of a crime, they can be convicted or deported like any other badly-behaving alien. They want to have their cake and eat it too. When they can evade laws or screw with other countries, they’re a foreign country. When they want to make money, they’re a charity. So far, they’ve been very successful at the game.

I will continue to remind people of the corruption of the Catholic Church, but I don’t see them being treated any differently in the foreseeable future. Catholic laity are still deeply loyal to the Church. They appear to be happy to support the pedophilia and corruption because the value their magic crackers and ticket to perpetual orgasm over any sort of human moral virtue. Either that, or they’re hopelessly mindlessly ignorant. If a Catholic reader has a more generous interpretation, I’d like to hear it. Perhaps that reader can also explain why anyone should trust them on their woo-woo unverifiable supernatural claims when they spend so much time lying about real-world claims. They’re really good at lying, as near as I can tell.

The Catholic Church doesn’t run the US legal system. (At least I hope not.) They clearly seem to have help from outside their church. It appears that the majority of Christians value “religious tolerance”. What this has come to mean is a situational moral blind spot when the perpetrators of some atrocity happen to be fellow Christians. You also hear it as “Thou Shalt Not Judge”. In practice, it’s an agreement among thugs: “You don’t draw attention to my sociopathic Rapture snuff porn business and I won’t draw attention to your pedophile ring.” “You let me pray my sick child to death and I won’t call you on your faith-healing con game.” The list goes on. In the end, practical Christianity is about screwing someone and inhibiting anyone from doing something about it. It’s worked well for Christian leaders so far, why would they want to change it? Why would believers risk their ticket to nirvana actually doing something when they can take comfort in prayer (which has the same practical effect as masturbation)?

Lest you think I’m making this up, I have gotten a number of e-mails from Christians who seem to be shocked that I’m rattling the skeleton’s in Christianity’s closet. (I’m not party to the agreement between thugs.) Their biggest desire seems to be to shut me up. They seem to know what I’m saying is true, but they don’t want to hear it. One correspondent actually wanted me to enter a deal where if I lost, I would never say anything bad about a Christian again (even if it was true). That alone speaks volumes about Christianity to me. The moral failings of Christianity are a big part of my motivation to be an outspoken advocate for atheism. They should be a reason why we deny tax exemptions to such blatantly corrupt religious organizations.

Sadly, Christianity’s corruption is only part of the overall screwed up situation we’re in. I’m doing what I can with the tools I have. I would encourage all of you to do what you can to get us out of the myriad messes we’re all in.

Atheist Experience on February 21st

Our regular time slot for The Atheist Experience for February 21st was taken by a class in the same studio. The crew has worked their magic and got us the slot from 8-9:30 pm that day (3.5 hours later). It looks like the show will go on. Please watch the stream and participate as you normally would.

Matt and Martin will be on and they will have a special guest, Darrell Ray, author of The God Virus: How Religion Infects our Lives and Culture.

Science Works, Albeit Slowly

This month, the British medical journal Lancet retracted a peer-reviewed study done by Andrew Wakefield. The paper was retracted because Wakefield apparently provided false information in the study and perhaps tried to cook the numbers to promote his cause and his career. He’s also under investigation for serious professional misconduct.

Who is Andrew Wakefield and why was this paper important? He claimed that there was a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism. This paper served as the cornerstone of an anti-vaccination movement here and in Briton that has caused many parents to not vaccinate their children, leaving them vulnerable to a host of serious, but easily preventable diseases. The harm he has done is immeasurable.

On the plus side, science is working. His study drew skepticism and further scrutiny. His co-authors asked to have their names removed from the paper as a means of protecting their reputations. His results could not be replicated and they were refuted. The editors of the journal made a difficult decision to retract the paper, thus keeping their integrity from being taken down with the junk science paper. Retractions like this are rare, fortunately, but they serve as a housecleaning mechanism to purge the literature of truly bad publications. The machinery of science got the right answer. It’s a shame that the machinations took 12 years.

The popular press is still full of anti-vaccination material and the harm won’t be fully addressed for years, but the process has finally got moving. Meanwhile, true scientists can get back to the serious business of understanding and someday preventing or curing autism.

BTW, Andrew Wakefield now lives in Austin Texas where he runs a clinic called the “Thoughtful House Center for Children.” I wouldn’t recommend taking your children there.