Ontopic 3 Athiests walk into a smegma church...

OzSTEEZ

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http://skeptichurch.blogspot.com/2011/01/atheists-at-world-harvest-church.html

Monday, January 10, 2011

Atheists at World Harvest Church - Columbus, Ohio





By JT Eberhard



It turns out that in Columbus there's a TV mega church called World Harvest. Turns out that Ashley, a co-worker of mine at the SSA (and awesome video blogger), had wanted to go there for a while but was lacking in people to go with. So we scooped up Nick, another co-worker, and made our way out there this morning.

I've been attending church a couple times a month for the last year, and this was the worst experience I've ever had at a church. For one, this was a Pentecostal, heal by laying on hands, speak in tongues, and convulse on the ground type of church. They opened up withthirty minutes of music, which was easily the best (read: least miserable) part of the service. About twenty minutes of that music was a reiteration of the same two phrases (using the same notes and rhythms): 'lord our god is mighty and high' and 'hallelujah'. Consider how insufferable that would be ordinarily, then recall that I'm a music major and multiply your agony by about a hundred and you'll have what I felt like.

It was at this point that I realized I was going to get an ongoing commentary from the lady beside me. She started by telling me that they didn't like religion at that church and that their pastor hates religion. I hope she doesn't plan to sell anything for a career. Her ramblings only got worse the rest of the morning, culminating with things like "You better watch out" aimed directly at me whenever the pastor was preaching about non-believers winding up in hell.

Then came the tithe. At most churches they ask for money, pass the hat, and call it good. Not at World Harvest. We got a forty minute lecture from the pastor's mother about how they shouldn't just tithe, but how they should make a sacrificial offering on top of it. She suggested putting jewelry in the bucket. The idea was that if they gave all they could then the good lord would make sure they got it back and more. To drive this point home she said "You don't think I've got money?" She then went to her purse and pulled out a seriously large wad of twenties and talked about how nowadays giving $2,000 wasn't much at all. Shetold us how she had never known a financial need. She even put her hand on somebody who immediately spazzed out. And the crowd ate it up. Nobody thought "Hrm, perhaps the reason she has so much money is because we're giving 'til it hurts." (Turns out, there's been a lot of that going on lately) She even told one member of the congregation that god was telling her that the congregation member would soon 'come into a financial blessing'. Hallelujah!

She also said they had a report of a miracle: two church members were in car wrecks and came out alright. People who cry 'miracle' for mundane things seem to have a very low opinion of miracles. People survive car wrecks all the time. Atheists survive them, Christians survive them, Muslims survive them, etc. People of all creeds also die in car wrecks, including Christians. If god gets the credit when they survive does he also get the 'credit' when they die? Again, the crowd ate it up. And they gave money: every single one of them. I briefly wondered why the secular movement can't get donations like that. Simple: our dignity prevents it. We're unwilling to promise returns on investments that we're unwilling to provide.

The pastor's mother also assured the congregation that as long as they believed in Jesus that they could not be afflicted. My personal commentator agreed by saying therewas no such thing as a sick day since the lord keeps believers well. The pastor's mother then talked about how she had gotten cancer (without catchingthe irony). She let us know what she told 'the devil': "You're not gonna get me, devil! I'm not going to quit at 75!" I thought to myself "Isn't the life expectancy for women in the United States 80.7 years?" Yeah, it is. If god's looking out for her, he's got a really weird way of doing it. She closed by assuring us that this wasn't about money for the church, but rather about our mortal lives. Praise his name.

I was already starting to get sick to my stomach at this point. She was literally selling good fortune to the congregation. She was telling them that they would make money by giving their money away - and they cheered and complied. After forty minutes of that, mega pastor Rod Parsley took the stage.

He began by telling us he'd wait for everybody [to stand up]. He eventually started even though we remained seated. He opened by hearkening back to the part of the music segment that wasn't hugely repititious, pointing out a line about how Christians were going to see the impossible. He referred to it as a prophesy. Same with the next line from the song about how Christians are gong to see what they've beenpraying for. That was apparently also a prophecy.

He talked about how the ideal patriot/government in a democracy enacts the will of the people no matter what. Such a politician would have been a huge hit around the time when women or blacks were fighting for equality, despite the will of the American public. Personally, I think the idea of protecting the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority is a pretty swell idea. Then again, I'm speaking from the position of being a minority, so I'm probably biased. (/sarcasm)

He then talked about how 22 year-old people are really just children with brains that are not fully developed. Yet he has no problem with this little bit in the new visitor book talking about the age group they want to target with one of their ministries.

As I pointed out the other day, kids at this age have brains that are biologically programmed to trust authority as a compensation for insufficiently developed critical-thinking skills. It's how they can so easily be convinced to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. The more I research into high school groups, the more I find groups like World Harvest and Good News Clubs which, unable to convert anybody on the strength of theirarguments, have decided to prey upon those who are defenseless.

Then came a rant based upon a new argument that's been circulating amongst apologists lately: angry rhetoric is leading to humanity's decline. Right. Because previous generations didn't have people vocally pissed off about things. Then there was more assuring people that god has made them powerful. I would give them a chance after the service to demonstrate just how powerful god had made them. More on that later.

He then ranted about our backsliding media, which is filled with movies depicting demonic behavior which, he said, was conditioning us to not believe that demons exist. He lamented that we would liken demons to the Wicked Witch of the West! Heaven forbid.

He then told us that above our heads was divine warfare. We looked. Didn't see it. Crowd cheered.

Then came the usual gripes about secular humanism. Turns out, humanism is to blame for 8,000 teens 'surrendering their virginity' on a daily basis, for people contracting STDs, and I found out that secular humanists like me are possessed by Satan. I wish - I'd be able to rock on guitar if that were the case.

He then talked about someone he painted as the greatest converter of atheists ever: a pastor named Moody. This man was a loner, doing his work without a congregation, staff, pulpit, budget, TV programs (y'know, all the things this church uses). He talked about how Moody wouldn't even let non-Christians into his services - you would actually need a ticket identifying you as a non-Christian to get in! He also talked about how Moody would just take a box out on the street to get to the all the non-believers outside the church setting. Parsley admonished his congregation to emulate this.

Lastly, he griped about a host of things that were problematic with the church.

Christians becoming more theologically illiterate.
Christians becoming more desirous of pragmatic solutions.
Interest in community work escalating (his example: more care about those suffering from AIDS and the poor than in converting to Christ).
Insistence on tolerance, but intolerance of Christians. An example he used was intolerance to those who believe in a biblical definition of marriage. Yes, opposition to discrimination is now 'intolerance'.
The rest was more fire and brimstone, bible is inerrant, yadda, yadda, yadda. I was sick to my stomach from watching them bilk their gullible congregation and placing dogma above good reason. It was the embodiment of every reason that religion must be opposed.

In my newcomers guide the church had given me there was a page informing us about a first-time visitors meeting after the service, which held a line of particular appeal to me.

I could have my questions answered? There's Rod Parsley's face right there beneath it reassuring me that they mean what they say. So I went. For about ten minutes some lady gave a self-aggrandizing speech about her own life in which she attributed minor acts of competence accomplished by just about everyone else, such as finding all her classes in middle school, to miracles from god. She also told us she thought pastor Parsley was a prophet of god. Then they showed us a self-aggrandizing biographical video of Rod Parsley's life. Afterward, a pastor of some sort approached and talked to us. I finally, after about three hours of being preached at, got to divulge my atheism and to ask why I should believe in god.

He began by saying "We know there's a heaven and a hell." I interrupted him to ask how he knew that. His face registered confusion and he said "You don't believe in heaven or hell?"

No.

"Do you believe in god?"

"No, I said I was an atheist."

Then the other, presumably senior pastor stepped in. He was the husband of the lady who had given the narrative about her life. "Do you believe in the devil?" he asked.

"No."

"Well without god, how do you determine right from wrong?"

"I'd be happy to talk about that here in a second, but my initial question should be addressed. Why should I believe in god?"

The senior pastor cited that believers experienced miracles, and he floated a few out. I countered that followers of other faiths experienced 'miracles' (things for which they had no explanation or good occurrences that had a low probability of happening...not very 'miraculous' when you think of it that way) that they didn't find particularly compelling, and I asked why I should find their tales of unexplained events to be evidence for god. I used Muslims as an example. The pastor told me that Muslims don't believe in miracles. I informed the pastor that ten seconds on google would confirm he was wrong (I could have also said that a large number of OT miracles this guy believed in are in the Koran). The pastor said he hadn't looked into Islam and that insisted that he would not do so. I asked how he felt so comfortable talking about what another religious group did or didn't believe when he had just asserted that he knew nothing about it and had no interest in learning. He said he had found the truth so there was no need. I pointed out how it wasn't really fair to expect others to be willing to learn about his beliefs while being unwilling to extend the same courtesy. The pastor said he didn't want me to learn about their beliefs, which became clear after a bit, but I pointed out that his position directly conflicted with Parsley's sermon from earlier.

Ironically, he next asked if I had 'challenged god'. I asked him to explain what that meant. He asked if I had spoken with god or familiarized myself with his word. I asked if he meant something like read the bible and he said, "Now you're starting to get me." I informed him that I had read the bible. He asked if I had 'just read it' or if I had done anything with it. I asked what the difference was. He asked if I had challenged god. I said I had prayed for things, some of which had happened, some of which hadn't (like everybody else who prays). He sad "Yes, but have you done anything with it." We never really got to what he meant by that.

He then told me it was faith. I told him that wasn't a good reason for me to believe since there's no position so at odds with reality that faith couldn't be advanced in its defense (Smurfs? You just have to believe. Leprechauns? It's not about evidence - it's about faith). He responded that his beliefs were the truth. I asked how he knew that.

He then told me that I didn't come to hear the word of god, but that I came to dispute it. I asked him to explain the difference between coming to dispute something and explaining why I thought his reasons were inadequate. Here I had sat through three hours of their message only to be faced with a man who told me I wasn't there to hear their message by a man who is uninterested in familiarizing himself with anybody else's message. Upon digging my way out from underneath the avalanche of irony, I surfaced to hear this pastor telling me that I wasn't ready to receive the word of god. I told him I'd been embroiled in religion for the last seven years, knew more about faiths like Islam than he did, and expressed that I had probably done more theological work/study than most of his congregation. He reasserted that I wasn't ready. I told him that was condescending. He then said we'd have to table our conversation. I invited him to a public debate and gave him my email address. He said they didn't debate the gospel and promptly invited us to leave. I guess god hadn't made him quite as powerful as he'd thought. Any church which talks about reaching out to atheists, as Parsley did for a substantial portion of his sermon, needs to be prepared to answer these very simple questions. This man clearly was not prepared, and it resulted in him kicking us out rather than answering our questions, as the newcomers guide said they would.

If pastor Rod Parsley really believes the story he was spinning about getting atheists in the pews and taking a box out into the public square like pastor Moody did, then he needs to seriously re-evaluate who he promotes to positions of importance. Ditto if the concerns he vocalized about pastors being theologically illiterate were even remotely genuine. If his pastoral team really thinks he's a prophet, they should take his admonitions about reaching atheists and guarding against theological illiteracy more seriously.

There are a few atheists out there who tell me my tactics don't give religious people enough credit, and that all I need to be is more polite and try to connect with them. I call bullshit. Religion is openly dangerous and a hindrance to the acquisition of knowledge. It is also lethal to conversation. Conversation cannot occur when one party elevates the importance of believing a particular thing over the reliability of the methodology they used to arrive at that belief. As my exhibit A, look at the senior pastor: as is so frequently the case, it was his faith making him contemptuous of relevant knowledge and keeping him ignorant. That's not a good thing for an individual and it's not a good thing for society. Faith is something to be fought. It is not something to be coddled or given quarter. It is something to be fought tooth and claw and with all the facts at our disposal.
 

OzSTEEZ

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3 Athetists sit threw a 3 hour session at a mega church. They witness things like touch healing, stories of miracles, and lectures on why to give as much as you can (even jewelry) to the church, and who the church prides themselves on converting atheists. Atheists go to a questionaire session for first timers at the end of the main session to ask question regarding why they should believe in god. They get doused with ironic bullshit, and then are removed from the premises.
 
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Duke

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But, you see, all christians are pentecostals, so this really fits the bill.

This wouldn't happen in any other faith, not one bit. Other faiths do it right, and will just take your life, not your money, to further their agenda. That's how you rock a proper religion.
 

Duke

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Religion is openly dangerous and a hindrance to the acquisition of knowledge. It is also lethal to conversation. Conversation cannot occur when one party elevates the importance of believing a particular thing over the reliability of the methodology they used to arrive at that belief. As my exhibit A, look at the senior pastor: as is so frequently the case, it was his faith making him contemptuous of relevant knowledge and keeping him ignorant. That's not a good thing for an individual and it's not a good thing for society. Faith is something to be fought. It is not something to be coddled or given quarter. It is something to be fought tooth and claw and with all the facts at our disposal.
^^^ My biggest issue with athiests. Change barely a few words, and that is the statement of a radical extremist.
 

OzSTEEZ

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If people want to simply be ignorant any believe in anything. Fine. Go do that, but keep that shit to yourself. The fact that religious people from all over the globe can not do that is the reason I do not want religion to exist.
 

Duke

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If people want to simply be ignorant any believe in anything. Fine. Go do that, but keep that shit to yourself. The fact that religious people from all over the globe can not do that is the reason I do not want religion to exist.
How many anti-religious threads have you made here, versus my, or any, pro religious threads?

Since, you know, we mentioned the entire 'keeping shit to themselves' thing.
 

OzSTEEZ

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How many anti-religious threads have you made here, versus my, or any, pro religious threads?

Since, you know, we mentioned the entire 'keeping shit to themselves' thing.
I can't believe you are being this dumb. Religious people are not keeping their religion to themselves. They are out in force trying to impose their beliefs on others, and you want me to shut the fuck up about voicing my disapproval of it?? What kind of American are you?