The religion that is destroying America


Sometimes, I too can swaddle myself in cherished delusions and believe for a time that the world might get better. Look! The “nones” are gradually increasing in number, and less than half the American population denies evolution! The trends are going the right way! Then, unfortunately, I have to read some uncomfortable facts.

Pentecostalism, broadly speaking, now has as many as 600 million adherents worldwide, or more than a quarter of all Christians. It has a huge presence in Brazil, where it played a decisive role in the rise of the populist demagogue Jair Bolsonaro; in Hungary, where it helped elevate the explicitly illiberal Viktor Orbán; and in Guatemala, where Pentecostal evangelicalism was exported from the United States to counter the influence of the Second Vatican Council and the rise of liberation theology. It is surging among migrant workers in Gulf states, where some Pentecostal networks provide key services to the disempowered, and also in Nigeria, where human trafficking organizations have infiltrated certain Pentecostal networks. From the perspective of some global leaders of the movement, the United States looks like an aging and corrupt capital—the kind of place where missionaries must go as much as the place where they come from.

The evidence suggests that their timing is good. “Pentecostalism represents a rare feat in American religion—a tradition that is growing,” according to Ryan Burge, assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. “The Assemblies of God, which stands as the largest Pentecostal denomination, has seen a 50 percent increase in membership over the last three decades, while every other prominent Protestant denomination has seen their membership decline precipitously.”

Katherine Stewart calls them “Spirit Warrior Christians”, and we’ve all seen them in action. They’re the wackaloons who go into hysterics about the gays and the trans, who serve as prayer leaders and spiritual consultants to Republican politicians, and regard deep ignorance as a good qualification to serve in government. They are best defined by who they hate.

The demons that merit the emphasis of reactionary Pentecostals and neo-charismatics today often have to do with the belief that the secular liberal world is infested with “the LGBT agenda” and, in particular, “transgender ideology.” Whatever one makes of the policy details, considered abstractly, the relentless focus on this single issue is an expression of hostility toward a perceived liberal establishment. If evil has a face, it is that of the “expert,” the professor, and perhaps above all the liberal nonbeliever who urges everybody to pursue their own ideas of good and base their moral code on the principles of empathy and rationalism, rather than biblical truth.

You talkin’ about me?

It’s way past time we started doing something about the root causes of this lunacy, and it’s not about evangelizing atheism at people. It’s about correcting the inequalities in society.

The most fruitful line of investigation and response has to focus on the root causes of the religious transformation. Religion in America is starting to look more like religion in Brazil and Guatemala because America, in some aspects, is starting to resemble Brazil and Guatemala: increasingly unequal, bitterly divided, corrupt, rife with disinformation, and unstable. If we want people to choose different gods, we might think about tackling the conditions that lead them to prefer one kind over another.

The oligarchs have plowed the land of America, and found it fertile.

Comments

  1. StevoR says

    Aussies previous PM Scummo was a Pentecostalist – and our Trump clone.. & creepy as all fuck.

  2. StevoR says

    So not just the USA – or Brazil or elsewhere.. Far, far toomuchof the globe being blighted by this toxic, harmful, bigoted, creepy, weird and dangerous overgrown cult.

  3. says

    I think, from remembering one of Bart Ehrman’s talks, the core tenets of pentecostalism were 9th century additions to the bible. Or something like that (I am not going to listen to 6hr of Bart Ehrman, again, to dig up that reference) as they say “do your own research” I think it was the bit about snakes.

  4. moonslicer says

    600 million adherents: is there going to be enough room in hell for all of them?

    It occurs to me we might also need to take on new demons with pitchforks to keep them all in line. Anyone interested in such a position can put in their application now.

  5. raven says

    There don’t seem to be many Pentecostals in the USA though.

    Protestant: Mainline vs. Evangelical vs. Traditionally Black Church
    Family: US % % of population
    Pentecostal 4.6% 1.4% 0.6%
    Lutheran 3.5% 1.4%

    According to Wikipedia, Pentecostals only make up 2% of the population or 4.6% of the xians.

    The Proportion Of White Christians In The U.S. Has Stopped .. .https://www.npr.org › 2021/07/08 › americas-white-christ…

    Jul 8, 2021 — Even as the number of white evangelicals has shrunk to just 14% of Americans, they remain prominent in the Republican Party.

    I’d say the white Evangelicals aka the fundie xians are a far bigger threat. They are 14% of the US population.

    The Evangelicals and Pentecostals are pretty similar and you can lump them altogether for almost all purposes.

  6. robro says

    I don’t think I would say that religion in America, or anywhere else, is “increasingly unequal, bitterly divided, corrupt, rife with disinformation, and unstable.” That’s always been the case.

    What I would say is that the most ardent and extremist elements of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and other religions are feeling increasingly threatened by the slow secularization of society, and their loss of power. As a result they are consolidating into factions that support their demands and feed their fears. And, of course, they are being exploited for power by political factions like Chump, Bolsonaro, Putin, Orbán, and any number of lesser politicians.

    By the way, the radical right faction in El Salvador had the temerity to assassinate Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980 over his support of “liberation theology.” I’m sure Romero’s position was more complex than that simple label, but the role of anti-liberal forces in Central America and US involvement with them is well established.

  7. says

    The Pentecostal pestilence is also in Australia where it already has an established reputation for chold abuse, corruptiion and cultivation of right-wing conservative politicians.

  8. nomaduk says

    ‘You, my children, are the water that will wash away all that has gone before. In your hand, you hold my light, the gleam in the eye of Set. This flame will burn away the darkness, burn you the way to paradise!’

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    robro @ # 6: I don’t think I would say that religion in America, or anywhere else, is “increasingly unequal, bitterly divided, corrupt, rife with disinformation, and unstable.”

    Looks to me like Katharine Stewart means American society as a whole trends towards greater inequality, bitterness, etc, and who in the fact-based community could deny that?

    Per Phil Zuckerman and many other sociologists, religiosity increases proportionately with economic insecurity, which even without the culture war agitprop gives the fundagelicals abundant incentive to support the Republican agenda – and secularists even more motivation to oppose it.

  10. nomdeplume says

    In Australia no word of criticism or even analysis of Morrison’s (and other ministers) Pentecostalism was permitted. Religion everywhere has managed to get the media believing that it is out of bounds for political analysis, while at the same time thoroughly embedding in politics as a means of achieving ots aims of domination.

    Occurs to me that there is now a positive correlation between the insanity of a particular brand of religion and its success.

  11. says

    @11
    “Occurs to me that there is now a positive correlation between the insanity of a particular brand of religion and its success.”

    Well… yeah. No one is going to get excited by a religion that just says “Be nice to others. Also, there is a possibility that you might be rewarded for this after you die, but even if that doesn’t happen, at least in the end you’ll know you may have been helpful to the human condition”.

    No. What they want is want is what Conan the Barbarian said: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!” because your enemies don’t believe in your god, and that makes them bad. To not crush them would be an insult to your god. Can’t have that, because then your god would turn around and crush you. I mean, he’s kinda vengeful, what with destroying cities and the entire planet at different times. And the genocide, of course. So the religion is all fear. All the way down. I don’t find it much different from Orwell’s Two Minutes Hate. The in-group, out-group dynamic is powerful. Thus, particularly “insane” religions tend to stir up the most fervor and frenzy.

  12. Erp says

    “According to Wikipedia, Pentecostals only make up 2% of the population or 4.6% of the xians.”

    Religious statistics in wikipedia is one of those things you really, really have to check the sources on. The Pew Religious Landscape Survey of 2014 found 3.6% (evangelical non-Black pentecostal) + 1% (trad. Black pentecostal) = 4.6% of those living in the US as Pentecostal. This was up from a total of 4.3% in the equivalent survey in 2007. Pentecostalism as a movement dates to the late 19th century and has taken off in many countries. Some groups within it have deliberately sought political power (e.g., Bethel Church in Redding, California).

  13. redwood says

    “Religion in America is starting to look more like religion in Brazil and Guatemala because America, in some aspects, is starting to resemble Brazil and Guatemala: increasingly unequal, bitterly divided, corrupt, rife with disinformation, and unstable.” As an expat living outside of the US, I really have noticed this whenever I’ve made trips back. Infrastructure is crumbling, people are unhappy, service in shops is getting worse. The US has at least slipped down to a 1.5 world country and seems intent on dropping lower.

  14. StevoR says

    On Pentecostalist worst ever Aussie PM Scummo – one of many great satirical piss-taking songs recapturing his deplorable career (Scott Morrison) see also :

    Scummo post election :

    Scott Morrison has said he and his fellow worshippers “don’t trust in governments” and “don’t trust in the United Nations” during a sermon at Margaret Court’s church, (Australia’s uber-homophobic version of the Westboro Baptists cult – ed) where the former prime minister also said God had a “plan” for him after his election defeat.

    Source : https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jul/18/we-dont-trust-in-governments-or-un-scott-morrison-tells-margaret-courts-perth-church

    Plus :

    How does this affect contemporary Australian politics? Pentecostalism is clearly towards the illiberal end of the Australian political spectrum. Its members are likely to vote for right-wing candidates. In the NSW and Victoria Liberal parties, for example, there is evidence that Pentecostal activists are joining branches (perhaps branch stacking) to ensure the endorsement of like-minded candidates for political office. The preferred policies are closely aligned with the economic conservatism of neoliberalism and a reactionary form of social conservatism requiring the winding back of “progressive” social reforms achieved over recent decades.

    In the real world of politics however, the extent to which pentecostalist politicians will try to impose their religious beliefs on public policy will be governed by whatever access they have to political power.

    Source : https://johnmenadue.com/politics-and-pentecostalism-101/

  15. StevoR says

    In addition there’s this article :

    What then, are the key aspects of Pentecostal belief that will likely shape Morrison’s actions as a re-elected Prime Minister commanding huge authority in his party?

    Source : https://johnmenadue.com/philip-almond-five-aspects-of-pentecostalism-that-shed-light-on-scott-morrisons-politics/

    Plus The links to Quanon Scummo as PM and his wife and close family friend had exposed by this 4 Corners episode here – 50 mins long.

    Whilst locally the penteostalists including my thankfully former extreme reichwing LNP MP Flint tried tobtracnch stack &hijack the party with pentecostalist cultists : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3ol1aUN_Go

  16. Howard Brazee says

    Anybody who thinks it can’t happen here should research Father Charles Coughlin and the “Christian Front”.

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