What’s killing the church?

Here’s an observation: as Christianity fades in England and Wales, some evangelical religious groups are finding a niche, like the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. I guess stodgy old Anglicanism is losing its flavor. However, these new churches are poisoning the well, doing a fabulous job of producing disaffected ex-followers. You might wonder how that works.

UCKG is an evangelical, Pentecostal church, first started in Brazil. It now has a presence across the globe, including more than 50 full- and part-time branches in the UK, the most recent of which opened in Nottingham this month. Many are located in some of the most economically deprived parts of the country.

The church’s Brazilian founder, Edir Macedo, has been included on Forbes’ billionaires list. Twice this year he has flown into the UK, and around Europe, on private jets owned by the church. In Brazil, congregants’ donations were used to build a temple in São Paulo as tall as an 18-storey building.

You ought to be immediately suspicious of any church in which the head priest is a billionaire. I’d be giving the side-eye to any pastor who is even a millionaire, for that matter — how can you get wealthy honestly by preaching to the poor and needy? You can’t. The only way is by fleecing the flock.

As an atheist, though, what do I know? Maybe Jesus was just raking in the loaves and fishes, making a fortune with a chain of bakeries and fish and chip shops. Just like how Macedo might be working hard at honest labor, rather than begging his adherents to give him all their money.

Crossing a demographic bridge

The United Kingdom has tripped over the precipice into godlessness. Or at least, into following a different god. They’re waaay ahead of the United States.

England and Wales are now minority Christian countries, according to the 2021 census, which also shows that Leicester and Birmingham have become the first UK cities to have “minority majorities”.

The census revealed a 5.5 million drop in the number of Christians and a 1.2 million rise in the number of people following Islam, bringing the Muslim population to 3.9 million. The changes equate to a 17% fall in Christians and 44% increase in the number of Muslims. It is the first time in a census of England and Wales that fewer than half of the population have described themselves as Christian.

Meanwhile, 37.2% of people – 22.2 million – declared they had “no religion”, the second most common response after Christian. It means that over the past 20 years the proportion of people reporting no religion has soared from 14.8%.

The question I have, though, is that if atheists are so much smarter than other people, and if the percentage of atheists have more than doubled, how do we explain Brexit and the party of Tory wankers running the country? Maybe something is wrong with my premises.

Who is a greater danger to society?

Person the first, Travis Clark, a defrocked priest who was arrested for having consensual relations with two sex workers in a Catholic church:

A former Catholic priest who was arrested in 2020 after a passerby saw him and two dominatrices having sex on the altar of Pearl River church pleaded guilty Monday to a single count of felony obscenity. Travis Clark listened to 22nd Judicial District Judge Ellen Creel read the elements of the obscenity statute at the courthouse in Covington. Clark, 39, received a suspended prison sentence and will serve probation.

Clark and two women, Mindy Dixon and Melissa Cheng, were arrested in September 2020 after a passerby noticed lights on at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Pearl River. The witness saw Clark, partially naked, having sex with two women who were wearing corsets. When police arrived, they seized sex toys, stage lights, a cell phone and the tripod-mounted camera.

Person the second, a fully frocked Gregory Aymond, who carried out magic rituals to erase the demonic presence of the sex workers, among the least of his silly superstitious acts:

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond last appeared on JMG in October 2020 when he held a ritual burning of the altar upon which “demonic” dominatrices had filmed a three-way with a local priest in view of passersby.

Earlier in 2020 he appeared here when his archdiocese declared bankruptcy in the face of an avalanche of abuse lawsuits.

Also in 2020, Aymond flew aboard a World War II-era biplane on Good Friday to sprinkle holy water on New Orleans in order to stop the spread of coronavirus.

More seriously, he has defended pedophiles, opposed abortion, and wants gays back in the closet, the usual vile Catholic shit.

Which one scares you more?

Wow, I guess that last election was more devastating than I thought

I thought the 2022 elections were rather good news, not great, but the Democrats did a little better than expected, and there’s some faint hope that our “liberal” party was going to wake up to the importance of talking about the issues that matter. We didn’t dig ourselves into a deeper hole, and maybe, if we keep working at it, we can someday reverse the descent that began in the 1980s.

Alas, poor Michael Voris. He has taken the outcome hard. Now he declares that the four pillars of his worldview — America, the Military, Notre Dame, and the Church — have been shattered. His hate group, the Church Militant will persevere, but he’s fighting a rear-guard action while playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” as we slide down the slippery (lubricated with gay lube and the blood of babies) slope to Hell, all because the Republicans failed to take the senate this time.

[cue Sad Trombone and teeny-tiny violin]

Look on the bright side, Michael. He announced a while back that he’d lived the wild life in his thirties, and made a public confession.

Whatever the matter, I will now reveal that for most of my years in my thirties, confused about my own sexuality, I lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men. From the outside, I lived the lifestyle and contributed to scandal in addition to the sexual sins. On the inside, I was deeply conflicted about all of it. In a large portion of my twenties, I also had frequent sexual liaisons with both adult men and adult women.

He consecrated specifically my chastity to Our Blessed Mother. Well, there’s no point to that anymore, America is dead, the military is full of liberals, Notre Dame has become theologically insane, and the church is corrupt, so get out there and party like a mad man!

Believe them when they tell you what they want to do

Between the Church Militant and Nick Fuentes, it’s pretty clear what the theocratic Right wants to do: they want to kill you or force you to be as mad as they are.

I remember when everyone thought atheism was radical.

Just a thought: are these far-right loons finally insane enough to repel the majority of Americans? Or are they actually winning converts to their bloody causes?

Oh, wait. I just realized that Twitter is in the process of melting down, and that it’s entirely possible that every time over the last 10 or 15 years that I’ve linked to Twitter, that’s going to become a dead link, and I better make sure to include a link to a more stable, reliable source from now on. That excerpt of one of Nutty Nick’s rants is also enshrined on Right Wing Watch.

The death of Twitter is going to punch holes in blogs everywhere.

Your religiously-motivated murders must be tidy and conservative!

The day of the election, Michael Voris of the Vortex/Church Militant posted a strange video. The grey/blonde junkyard rat he uses for a toupee is noticeably tousled, and his voice is mildly agitated. He starts off by thanking god that the GOP was going to stop the evil ones, so he seems to be confident that there is going to be a Republican sweep (with reservations: the forces of darkness…have complete control of one political party and partial control over the other, and we lost the war over morality, so evident today in even the GOP, which just warmly embraces sodomy as marriage — it’s a bit of a mixed message), but his real message is simple: if conservative Catholics don’t get their way, then violence is justified.

You may notice his message here is also confused. He keeps insisting that political action is the first resort and that violence is the very last resort, but hey, if you can’t ban abortion and gay marriage, then yeah, go for it, start busting heads.

Now we are in a pitched battle in the political arena—the last remaining line before all-out civil war. If you love peace and you don’t want to see violence, then you better get involved on the political front.

And let’s be clear about this for all the phony or delusional pacifists out there: Violence in and of itself is not immoral. It depends on the circumstances, and sometimes, even, it’s necessary: self defense, the subduing of an aggressor threatening the life of your family, the Son of God in the temple violently whipping the money changers.

Wait. One of his examples is not like the others. I can agree that violence in self-defense against violence is acceptable, but if you’re the Son of God you’re allowed to be violent against capitalists? Bring on the Communist Revolution then. Except that Voris hates Communists, and that’s exactly what the Democrats are. Except also that I suspect what he really means to say is that whipping The Jews is just fine and dandy.

The idea that violence must always, at all times, always be avoided is not Catholic. Remember the Crusades? Sometimes violence must be unleashed to protect the innocent.

Wait again. The Crusades were about protecting the innocent? What I remember is that the Crusades were violent invasions of the Middle East justified by a welter of complex political and religious excuses that mainly ended up killing a lot of people to no good end. I interpret this to mean that violence is bad except when religious rationalizations allow you to unleash it. He’s kind of arbitrary in what he accepts as “protecting the innocent”.

But lethal violence—because of its drastic, you-can-never-come-back-from-it consequences—must never be the first resort. In fact, it must always be the last resort, and then not be allowed to turn into an orgy of dominance over the foe.

Nonetheless, violence does — must — always be an option. Welcome to a fallen world.

Violence is bad, mmm-kay, but it must always be an option. I’ll let you know when the option must be exercised. Stay tuned to the Vortex for the signal!

Remember, no orgies. Orgies are bad. The Church Militant only endorses strait-laced murders.

God’s big money cheaters

Make AiG’s nightmare a reality!

Churches already have so many unwarranted privileges that it’s simply being greedy when they also flout the few laws that constrain them. ProPublica exposes what we already knew was happening everywhere: churches ignoring the law to meddle in politics.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune have found 20 apparent violations in the past two years of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits church leaders from intervening in political campaigns. Two occurred in the last two weeks as candidates crisscross Texas vying for votes. The number of potential violations found by the news outlets is greater than the total number of churches the IRS has investigated for intervening in political campaigns in the past decade, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the law, pastors can endorse candidates in their personal capacities outside of church and weigh in on political issues from the pulpit as long as they don’t veer into support or condemnation of a particular candidate. But the law prohibits pastors from endorsing candidates during official church functions such as sermons.

Violations can lead to the revocation of a church’s tax-exempt status.

Oooh, what a terrifying punishment.

Since the IRS has been unable to enforce the law, I suggest cutting through all the hesitations and simply revoke the tax-exempt status of all churches. There’s no legitimate reason that setting up a panhandling shop and calling it a god’s house should make its owners free of property and income taxes. Start rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, you know.

Play the game, you lose; don’t play the game, you lose

You’ve all heard of this Christian Nationalism nonsense, right? It’s all the rage with old people and conservative freaks and Facebook readers.

So what is Christian nationalism? It’s an ideology that says Christianity is the foundation of the United States and that government should protect that foundation. Political scientist Ryan Burge has found that the term “Christian nationalism” was mentioned in more tweets in July 2022 than in all of 2021.

I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news first: it’s declining a little bit!

We did find that agreement grew slightly from 2007 to 2017 from 27 percent to 29 percent, as other scholars have found as well. But since then, the proportion of Americans who affirm this explicit Christian nationalist statement has mostly declined to somewhere around 19 percent, a statistically significant drop.

When a fifth of the country thinks we’re a Christian nation, in defiance of the principles we were founded on, that’s still a problem…but they’ll be outvoted, right? Unfortunately, here’s the bad news: the people most prone to this fallacy are more likely to vote, and there are all these wealthy special interest groups propping up the idea.

But while fewer Americans say they agree with a core Christian nationalist tenet, its influence on our political life may nevertheless be expanding. The U.S. Census reports older Americans like those ages 65 to 74 vote at rates about 25 percent higher than Americans ages 18 to 24. Our research finds older Americans are also most likely to embrace Christian nationalism. And powerful people and lobbying groups like the Family Research Council, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are working to promote Christian nationalist policy goals in government, the courts, and at the polls.

Recent experimental research shows when Christian Americans are told their numbers are declining, they respond with a greater commitment to Christian nationalism and Trump support. In other words, learning that they are or may soon be a minority pushes them toward extremist beliefs.

So get out there and vote! That last bit is concerning, though, because if these jerks lose elections, they’ll leap deeper into extremism, and they won’t mind follow criminal strategies to win in spite of losing. They’re already gearing up to compromise elections.

The Republican National Committee and its allies say they have staged thousands of training sessions around the country on how to monitor voting and lodge complaints about next month’s midterm elections. In Pennsylvania, party officials have boasted about swelling the ranks of poll watchers to six times the total from 2020. In Michigan, a right-wing group announced it had launched “Operation Overwatch” to hunt down election-related malfeasance, issuing a press release that repeated the warning “We are watching” 10 times.

Supporters of former president Donald Trump who falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen have summoned a swarm of poll watchers and workers in battleground states to spot potential fraud this year. It is a call to action that could subject voting results around the country to an unprecedented level of suspicion and unfounded doubt.

“We’re going to be there and enforce those rules, and we’ll challenge any vote, any ballot, and you’re going to have to live with it, OK?” one-time Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon said on a recent episode of his podcast. “We don’t care if you don’t like it. We don’t care if you’re going to run around and light your hair on fire. That’s the way this is going to roll.”

Bannon? Isn’t he in jail yet? You know he doesn’t care about the law, or ethics, or common decency. He’s going to lie and cheat to get his way, and then…uh-oh.

Election administrators say they welcome more participation from the public but worry that improperly trained observers could try to enforce rules that they are misinterpreting. Even a handful of bad actors, they note, can inject chaos into the voting system and sow distrust.

“The problems don’t need to be in a thousand polling places,” said David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research in Washington, D.C. “If there’s a violent incident in one polling place, that’s enough, because the election deniers have been pouring gasoline all over the country, and it just takes one match.”

I am dreading 8 November, when the midterm elections take place. I won’t be watching the returns, because I sense a national crisis coming our way.

If the Republicans come back and win, and retake any portion of the government, we face years of stalemates and continued losses, and a strengthening of the loony faction. If the Republicans lose, there is going to be such a shriek of protest and armed assholes rampaging and years of legal wrangling over nothing.

We sane Americans can’t win.

The Freedom from Atheism Foundation is wrong about everything

If you’re at all interested in how religion wrecks people’s brains, take a look at the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (also on Facebook, where it’s updated more frequently. All the worst shit is on Facebook.) I thought the cartoon on the right was typical, because the little kid’s reply in no way addresses the point Cartoon Dawkins was making, but apparently they think it’s cogent.

It turns out they’ve been claiming that I support them, which is weird. That claim was noted on RationalWiki.

This webshite website is so biased and full of hate that many would consider it to be a “hate group”, as it frequently uses lies, generalizations, and intentional misrepresentations to defame atheists — but then of course, if they do all of that, then they are totally not a hate group, you intolerant, militant atheist. In fact, the FFAF even claims to “love” the very people whom they work so hard to dehumanize. In a brilliant display of deliberate dishonesty, the Freedom From Atheism Foundation also falsely claimed that they were “endorsed” by PZ Myers, despite the fact that he openly stated in his blogpost that he does not at all agree with them, criticizes their claim that “atheism is a religion”, and states that their goal is “all about restricting religious freedom.”

Never be ironic in titling your posts about them, because they won’t get it…or will deliberately misrepresent it.

Conservapædia doesn’t get it, either.

Atheist activist PZ Myers issued a statement on May 9, 2014 called “I support the Freedom From Atheism Foundation”. In this statement, Myers stated “I am happy to agree that atheism should be kept out of the public square, if religion is also excluded. There’s this principle called secularism that I think is a good idea, and the only way to accommodate a religiously diverse community.”

I hope the title of this post clarifies everything for those little minds.

He’s getting desperate

Trump just forwarded a prayer to his followers on Trump Social. I think he’s broken and desperate.

I think that if there were a god, such a being would see right through Trump’s chicanery and know that he’s far more creepily secular than his opponents, and would immediately strike dead with a lightning bolt any MAGAt who had the affrontery to make that prayer.

Are those red hat fools still milling around out there? There is no god. QED.