On the Christian blog, “Triablogue,” I found a thread titled, “The Discomfiter,” that discussed a new blog of that name by someone who claims he has deconverted from Christianity and become an atheist seemingly overnight, but whose arguments are mere parodies of the atheistic types of arguments at “Debunking Christianity.” After reviewing the blog of the “The Discomfiter,” Steve Hays at “Triablogue,” wrote, “The only plausible alternative is that The Discomfiter is legit, but out of his mind.”
Is that the only “plausible” alternative? Maybe for Steve, who already views all non-Christians as insane in some sense in Godʼs eyes, but anyone with a lick of commonsense could tell “The Discomfiter” was NOT legit from the start. Apparently Steveʼs legit-o-meter is broken. Makes me wonder whether he watches “The Colbert Report” and finds the “only plausible alternative” to be that Stephen Colbert is a genuine Right Wing fanatic?
If you need further evidence that “The Discomfiter” isnʼt legit listen to his radio interview on Unchained Radio where The Discomfiter imitates Jack Nicholson (or maybe Robert M. Price) and says that logic, time, and evil, donʼt exist, and adds, “poison can be harmless one day and deadly the next, thatʼs how ruled by chance the cosmos is” (my paraphrase). The folks who “called in” were also “plants,” with phony questions and phony personas like “The Discomfiter” himself. It was a total joke in a Stephen Colbert vein.
One irony this brings up however is the fact that unlike “crazy atheists” like “The Discomfiter,” thereʼs far more crazy Christian stories in the news, i.e., from people falling over themselves to see everyday objects that look like Jesus; to Christians being scammed out of billions via “religious affinity” scams (as reported in Christianity Today where the Christian investigator admits, “Religious scams are among the most common and Christians are easy targets”.) See also “Baptist Leaders Caught Fleecing the Flocks”). Or see The North American Securities Administrators Association report, “Preying on the Faithful: The False Prophets of the Investment World,” that describes one outfit that cited the blessing of the tribe of Asher by Moses in Deuteronomy that “the feet of the people will be bathed in oil” as the basis for drilling for oil. Or just google, “Preying on the Faithful.” (I guess the Biblical promise that God will give “wisdom” to all who pray for it, doesnʼt work, because I bet a lot of scammed Christians first prayed to God asking whether they ought to hand over their money and signatures to these other folks or not. The scammers themselves are often Christians with far too much faith in both Godʼs ability and their own to multiply monetary blessings for His brethren.)
Equally devastating are the stories of devout Christian heads of mega-corporations. Have you read about the ones involved in the two biggest corporate scandals in recent times, the heads of Enron and WorldCom. They were truly devout believers. Read the above pieces about their faith and belief in their Bible-Godʼs directing hand by clicking on Enron and WorldCom.
Or have you read the latest articles chronicling Protestant ministers who abuse kids or other reports of clergy sexual abuse (even in the Boy Scouts, another firmly theistic group, whose history of abuse goes way back and who have obstructed the release of files on the matter), not to mention THE LARGEST CASE OF CHILD PROSTITUTION IN U.S. HISTORY, that involved Reverend Tony Leyva, Pentecostal TV-evangelist who used to wear a Superman costume and carry a Bible, nicknaming himself “Super Christian,” and who was in the Guinness Book of World Records (for four years) for preaching the longest known sermon (72 hours straight), and who was hired by a Georgia television station to replace Jimmy Swaggertʼs show, was arrested by the FBI, along with three of his fellow fundamentalists, on charges of transporting boys across state lines for the purposes of prostitution or criminal sexual activity. Reverend Leyva railed in public against “filth” and “smut.” In private he sodomized more than 100 church boys, and was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison in 1989. [See Brother Tonyʼs Boys: The Largest Case of Child Prostitution in U.S. History]
Or how about cases of Christians murdering other Christians during exorcisms (youʼll have to ask me to send you those, from different sources); or devout Christian wives murdering their sons and daughters (Iʼm not talking about taking a “morning after pill,” but killing already born children); or serial killers like the Son of Sam and Jeffrey Dahmer claiming they had become “born again” in prison.
Then thereʼs fiascos like the mega-church that spent a quarter of a million dollars to build a replica of the Statue of Liberty, but their version holds a cross aloft instead of a torch and clutches the Ten Commandments to her breast. What about the guy in the rainbow colored wig who used to hold up signs that read, "John 3:16" at televised sporting events? Do you know what happened to Rockin Rodney? Or how about a famous evangelist (Arthur Blessitt) who is currently raising money to launch a cross into outer space so it circles the globe.
So the world of religion remains crazier, wilder(and far funnier)than the world of atheism.
But one of the craziest things in my opinion is the fact that the earliest Christians didnʼt stop writing tales about Jesus and Paul and other apostles with the New Testamentʼs books and letters, but continued to write additional Gospels and Acts and fake letters of Paul and Peter (including descriptions of visions they allegedly recʼd). Some scholars of course doubt that Paul and Peter wrote everything attributed to them in the Bible itself. Talk about early Christians being devout liars, who may have even thought they were inspired to collect and write down such tales. (The New Testament itself, in the book of Jude, even cites an ancient literary forgery as if it contained a genuine “prophecy” from “Enoch the seventh from Adam.”)
Christians continued lying over the centuries concerning what famous non-believers and/or heretics said on their death beds, faking stories about what Voltaire said to what Darwin said.
Wild crazy Christian urban legends have also been passed around by Christians for decades, like the “sound of hell, taped from the bottom of a well drilled deep below the earthʼs surface.” Or “end times” madness. Or “man-prints found inside dinosaur prints.” I havenʼt even scratched the surface of the Pentecostal world and its crazy tales. Or nudist Christians down in Florida. (Yup, Christianity includes folks who like to cover their bodies like Amish and Catholic nuns, but it also includes naked clergymen and naked congregations who preach the good NUDES about Jesus Christ.)
More fun info below! Be discomfited!
Christianity runs the gamut…
From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers—to hell raisers and serpent-handlers;
From those who “hear the Lord” telling them to run for president, seek diamonds and gold (via liaisons with bloody African dictators), or sell “Lake of Galilee” beauty products—to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata;
From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that—to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into “invisible” flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with miraculous tales of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);
From those who argue that they are predestined to argue in favor of predestination—to those who argue for free will of their own free will;
From those who argue God is a “Trinity”—to “Unitarian” Christians (including not only Unitarian-Universalist churches, but some backwoods primitive Baptist churches, and Messianic Christian-Jewish denominations, not to leave out Godʼs chosen people in the earliest “testament” in the Bible);
From those who believe nearly everyone (except themselves and their church) will be damned —to those who believe everyone may (or will) eventually be saved;
From those who taught/teach that heretics and apostates ought to be executed [some Reconstructionist Christians still teach it would be good to bring back the practice] — to Albigensian and Cathar Christians who outlawed violence and taught that the shedding of blood and the killing of any living thing, even the slaughtering of a chicken or ensnaring a squirrel, was a mortal sin (a belief they based on the spirituality and metaphors of Christʼs meekness and forgiveness in the Gospel of John). [See The YellowCross: The Story of the Last Catharsʼ Rebellion Against the Inquisition 1290-1329 by René Weis]
From Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as “Satanic”—to Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoguing with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests;
From castrati (boys in Catholic choirs who underwent castration to retain their high voices)—to Protestant hymns and Gospel quartets—all the way to “Christian rap;”
From Christians who reject any behavior that even mimics “what homosexuals do” (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between a husband and wife)—to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups like the nationwide Metropolitan Baptist Church);
From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies—to Christian nudists (viz., there was a sect known as the “Adamites,” not to mention modern day Christians in Florida with their own nude Christian churches, campgrounds and even an amusement park), and letʼs not forget born-again strippers;
From those who believe that a husband and wife can have sex for pleasure—to those who believe that sex should be primarily for procreation—to those who believe celibacy is superior to marriage (i.e., Catholic priests, monks, nuns, and some Protestant groups like the Shakers who denied themselves sexual pleasure and only maintained their membership by adopting abandoned children until the last Shaker finally died out in the late 1900s)—all the way to those who cut off their genitals for the kingdom of God (the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect);
From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to become Christians is essential—to the Anti-Mission Baptists who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of “extra-congregational missionary organizations” is not Biblical;
From those who believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired translation—to those who believe that no translation is totally inspired, only the original “autographs” were perfect—to those who believe that “perfection” only lay in the “spirit” that inspired the writing of the Bibleʼs books, not in the “letter” of the books themselves;
From those who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics)—to those who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox). And, from those who believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholics)—to those who believe it proceeds from the Father alone (Eastern Orthodox view as taught by the early Church Fathers). Those disagreements, as well as others, sparked the greatest schism of church history (the Schism of 1054) when the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the envoys of the uncompromising Pope Leo IX, excommunicated each other;
From those who worship God on Sunday—to those who worship God on Saturday (Saturday being the Hebrew “Sabbath” that God said to “keep holy” according to one of the Ten Commandments)—all the way to those who believe their daily walk with God and love of their fellow man is more important than church attendance;
From those who stress “Godʼs commands”—to those who stress “Godʼs love;”
From those who believe that you need only accept Jesus as your “personal savior” to be saved—to those who believe you must accept Jesus as both savior and “Lord” of your life in order to be saved. (Two major Evangelical Christian seminaries debated this question in the 1970s, and still disagree);
From those who teach that being “baptized with water as an adult believer” is an essential sign of salvation—to those who deny it is;
From those who believe that unbaptized infants who die go straight to hell—to those who deny the (once popular) church doctrine known as “infant damnation.”
From those who teach that “baptism in the Holy Spirit” along with “speaking in tongues” are important signs of salvation—to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in modern day “Spirit baptism” and “tongue-speaking”);
From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, contemporary Christian music, movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important signs of being saved—to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;
From Christians who disagree whether the age of the cosmos should be measured in billions or only thousands of year—whether God pops new creatures into existence or subtly alters old ones—even some who disagree whether the earth goes round the sun or vice versa;
From pro-slavery Christians (there are some today who still remind us that the Bible never said slavery was a “sin”)—to anti-slavery Christians;
From Christians who defend the Biblical idea of having a king (and who oppose democracy as “the meanest and worst of all forms of government” to quote John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with whom some Popes agreed, as well as some of todayʼs Protestant Reconstructionist Christians)—to Christians who oppose kingships and support democracies;
From “social Gospel” Christians—to “uncompromised Gospel” Christians;
From Christians who do not believe in sticking their noses in politics—to coup dʼetat Christians;
From “stop the bomb” Christians—to “drop the bomb” Christians;
From Christians who strongly suspect that the world will end tomorrow—to those who are equally certain it wonʼt.
All in all, Christianity gives Hinduism with its infinite variety of sects and practices a run for its money.
The Christian God—or gods? For out of Paraguayan Catholics, Vermont Congregationalists, Utah Mormons, and New Zealand Anglicans, sprout as many gods as are carved on a Jain temple wall.
In practice, Christianity, like Hinduism or Buddhism, is not one religion, but several religions, adapted to the needs of different types of human beings. A Christian church in Southern Spain, or Mexico, or Sicily is singularly like a Hindu temple. The eye is delighted by the same gaudy colors, the same tripe-like decorations, the same gesticulating statues; the nose inhales the same intoxicating smells; the ear and, along with it, the understanding, are lulled by the drone of the same incomprehensible incantations [in the old Catholic Latin mass tradition], roused by the same loud, impressive music.
At the other end of the scale, consider the chapel of a Cistercian monastery and the meditation hall of a community of Zen Buddhists. They are equally bare; aids to devotion (in other words fetters holding back the soul from enlightenment) are conspicuously absent from either building. Here are two distinct religions for two distinct kinds of human beings.
In Christianity bhakti [or, loving devotion] towards a personal being has always been the most popular form of religious practice. Up to the time of the [Catholic] Counter-Reformation, however, the way of knowledge (“mystical knowledge” as it is called in Christian language) was accorded an honorable place beside the way of devotion. From the middle of the sixteenth century onwards the way of knowledge came to be neglected and even condemned. We are told by Dom John Chapman that “Mercurian, who was general of the society (of Jesus) from 1573 to 1580, forbade the use of the works of Tauler, Ruysbroek, Suso, Harphius, St. Gertrude, and St. Mechtilde.” Every effort was made by the [Catholic] Counter-Reformers to heighten the worshipperʼs devotion to a personal divinity. The literary content of Baroque art is hysterical, almost epileptic, in the violence of its emotionality. It even becomes necessary to call in physiology as an aid to feeling. The ecstasies of the saints are represented by seventeenth-century artists as being frankly sexual. Seventeenth-century drapery writhes like so much tripe. In the equivocal personage of Margaret Mary Alacocque, seventeenth-century piety pours over a bleeding and palpitating heart. From this orgy of emotionalism and sensationalism Catholic Christianity seems never completely to have recovered.
The ideal of non-attachment has been formulated and systematically preached again and again in the course of the last three thousand years. We find it (along with everything else) in Hinduism. It is at the very heart of the teachings of the Buddha. For Chinese readers the doctrine is formulated by Lao Tsu. A little later, in Greece, the ideal of non-attachment is proclaimed, albeit with a certain, pharisaic priggishness, by the Stoics. The Gospel of Jesus is essentially a gospel of non-attachment to “the things of this world,” and of attachment to God. Whatever may have been the aberrations of organized Christianity—and they range from extravagant asceticism to the most brutally cynical forms of realpolitik—there has been no lack of Christian philosophers to reaffirm the ideal of non-attachment. Here is John Tauler, for example, telling us that “freedom is complete purity and detachment which seeketh the Eternal…” Here is the author of “The Imitation of Christ,” who bids us “pass through many cares as though without care; not after the manner of a sluggard, but by a certain prerogative of a free mind, which does not cleave with inordinate affection to any creature.”
Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals and into the Methods Employed for Their Realization
Live long enough and youʼll encounter a lot of folks who say you are not really a Christian for a host of reasons. Iʼve found the “no-true-Christian-would-do-or-believe-XYZ” game one of the more popular among, well, Christians.
Jonathan ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) at the yahoo group ExitFundyism
People have an amazing ability to fool themselves. Even Christian theology teaches that there are those who think they are believers but arenʼt. But just watching, as I have, an Islamic music group from Malaysia makes one realize how similar their actions are to those of a Christian music group. To see a man standing in deep meditation outside of a Shinto temple in Japan makes one wonder how belief comes about. To see a woman with great concern on her face burning a huge number of incense sticks at a temple in Hangzhou, China (one of my very favorite pictures) tells one that fervent prayer (and belief in the efficacy of prayer) is not the sole province of the Christian. To see how devoted Tibetan Buddhists are to their beliefs when compared with levels of devotion shown by many western Christians to theirs, makes one wonder why so many of us are less committed than them; same with the Islamacists who are willing to die for their beliefs while much of the West is not interested in self-sacrifice.
Glenn Morton [Evangelical Christian], American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) Email Discussion Group (June 16, 2006)
In my journeys in Christianity both in America and abroad Iʼve run across a myriad of believers, a mosaic of Christianity:
I remember a converted Christian who used to be a “Satanist,” saying, “Whatʼs the big deal about smoking marijuana?”
A Pentecostal pastor in Holland sat crying at a street side cafe worried that one of his woman parishioners was going to hell since she had stopped coming to church and was now wearing make-up. And as he cried, his tears rolled off his cheeks into his beer. (Many Pentecostal Christians in the U.S. ascribe to an ethic of absolute abstinence from alcohol.)
Iʼve known Christians who wonʼt own a TV; others who wonʼt allow playing cards in their house, and others who drink alcohol liberally and have every material possession imaginable. Others attempt to memorize the Bible to such an extent that it blocks most of their own personal original thoughts about anything; others who are social activists who take up causes like opposing abortion or picketing a Marilyn Manson concert; others who are simple and humble and feed the poor and house the homeless; others who are missionaries in third world countries suffering hardship for the “cause of Christ.” There was a sub group, however, in my institute who were King James Only—they believed the KJV was the only true inspired Bible for today and that all other versions were corrupted. As a group, they were radically enthusiastic and were proud to be KJV ONLY, and often fueled arguments over alternate translations. Heaven forbid they should catch anyone reading or enjoying The Living Bible (a modern English paraphrased translation of the ancient Hebrew) which they viewed as “the Devilʼs work.”
Karl Arendale at the Yahoo Group, ExitFundyism
Theology is a comprehensive, rigorous, and systematic attempt to conceal the beam in the scriptures and traditions of oneʼs own denomination while minutely measuring the mote in the heritages of onesʼ brothers.
Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic