When I was at that “debate” between Hugh Ross and Brian Lynchehaun, Brian made what I thought was an interesting point toward the end. He asked the audience to picture a circumstance in which a loved one was dying a painful death, with no hope of a medical cure. Someone offers you a chance to visit a faith healer, who promises a miraculous result, and all it will cost you is your life savings. Left with your back against the wall and no other options, would you take that chance?
A skeptic atheist wouldn’t, and Brian’s argument was that this is a illustration of how skeptics are less likely to fall for scams than a religious person. It popped into my head when I read this article about a pastor in Montreal:
Several members of the Bethel Christian Community have gone public with troubling allegations about money they say they lent to their spiritual leader — Rev. Mwinda Lezoka, a Congolese native who has ministered to Montreal’s growing African community for two decades.
These are not rich people – these are ordinary working people, some of whom went so far as to remortgage their own homes. They gave their money to a man they trusted, and were not repaid. It turned out that pastor Lezoka was using the money he appropriated for… slightly less divine ends:
During the years Lezoka ministered to his parish at the Bethel Christian Community Church in Ahuntsic, he also studied gemology, and appeared to head a Kinshasa-based export agency specialized in diamond trading.
Lezoka was apparently an administrator of a diamond exporting firm in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – the firm has since gone bankrupt. It does not take a great deal of imagination to envisage a scenario in which Lezoka used funds that were loaned to him for the purpose of developing the church in order to prop up his failing investment.
Jewish and Christian scripture exhort the faithful to be honest and fair-dealing. Bearing false witness is in the commandments (God is not cool with it), and that has been extrapolated to include all types of lying. Surely a pastor, one whose life is devoted to the teaching of scripture, once caught in a lie, would come clean and be honest, right?
“I did not take anyone’s money,” said Mwinda Lezoka, speaking in French, in an exclusive interview with CBC News. “So I, Mr. Lezoka, am not responsible for deceiving anyone.” … The pastor was unable to produce any financial records, when asked by CBC News. Nor could he explain why charitable tax receipts he issued have false numbers, according to Revenue Canada.
It’s sad, but unsurprising, when people with religious authority show themselves to be as callow, evasive, and corrupt as people with just regular ol’ Earthly authority. Unsurprising to me, at least, because even while I was a believer I didn’t buy the fiction that priests are somehow more righteous or upstanding than anyone else. To borrow from (and paraphrase) Napoleon, religion is an agreed-upon fiction. It is built firmly on the basis that everyone believes the story – if you do not believe, you cannot be shown evidence to engender belief (the fundamental difference between science and religion). If the morals and righteousness are based upon fiction, there is no end to the number of cognitive dissonances and goalpost shifts possible to justify any act of evil.
I am well aware of the fact that these people might have been duped by anyone. Many people fall for scams that are not religious in any way. However, credulous belief in falsehoods and the associated elevation of people into positions of power and authority (and assumed rectitude) based on those falsehoods makes a person more likely to believe in nonsense. To put it plainly: those who are willing to believe anything are willing to believe anything.
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