Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Religious Nutjob

Yes, I've been called a religious nutjob. As far as I know, not for anything I've written here. It was by a friend, that I've known for decades, a self declared atheist. He felt free to say derogatory things about God and believers, but once, just once, I quoted Psalms 14:1 to him, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'". I wasn't actually saying that about him, but a hypothetical person, nonetheless he unfriended me from Facebook that day. It may not have been the wisest thing to say, but when people insult God or believers, sometimes I get defensive. Years later he posted on a mutual friend's page that I was a "religious nutjob". Apparently I made an impression - but lost a friend.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

What is a religious nutjob anyway? When I look at what people do in the name of God, I am sometimes embarrassed to call myself a believer. Consider these.

Cult Suicides

Remember Jim Jones? He convinced 600 people to take their own lives and the lives of 300 children.
In 1978, media reports surfaced that human rights abuses were taking place in Peoples Temple's Jonestown, Guyana headquarters. United States Congressman Leo Ryan led a delegation into the commune to investigate what was going on; Ryan and others were murdered by gunfire while boarding a return flight with defectors. Jones subsequently committed a mass murder-suicide of 918 of his followers in Jonestown, Guyana. Nearly three hundred children were murdered, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning via a Flavor Aid mix. This historical episode gave rise to the ubiquitous American-English expression "drinking the Kool-Aid". Wikipedia(Jim Jones) [1]
Remember Heaven's Gate? Marshall Applewhite convinced his followers that after death they would journey to a spaceship behind Hale-Bopp comet. And I can't even convince people to try pickled fish...
On March 27, 1997, 39 followers of Heaven's Gate died in a mass suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, California, which borders San Diego to the north. These people believed, according to the teachings of their group, that through their suicides they were "exiting their human vessels" so that their souls could go on a journey aboard a spaceship they believed to be following comet Hale–Bopp. Some male members of the group underwent voluntary castration in preparation for the genderless life they believed awaited them after the suicide.  Wikipedia(Religiously_motivated_suicides) [2]. Also see Wikipedia(Heaven's Gate) [3]

Regardless of how you view the actions of the government concerning the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, here is some background.

The Waco siege was a siege of a compound belonging to the group Branch Davidians by American federal and Texas state law enforcement and US military between February 28 and April 19, 1993. The Branch Davidians, a sect that separated in 1955 from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was led by David Koresh and lived at Mount Carmel Center ranch near Waco. The group was suspected of weapons violations, causing a search and arrest warrant to be obtained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
On August 5, 1989, Vernon Howell  (later known as David Koresh) released the "New Light" audio tape, in which he stated he had been told by God to procreate with the women in the group to establish a "House of David" of his "special people". This involved separating married couples in the group and agreeing that only he could have sexual relations with the wives, while the men should observe celibacy. Wikipedia(Waco siege) [4]


Predicting "The End Of The World As We Know It" has been popular for a long time.  According to Wikipedia(List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events) [5], it appears to have started a few years after Jesus said "I will come again" - John 14:3, and ascended to heaven; increasing in intensity near year 1000, and really ramping up in the 20th century. Wikipedia lists 173 failed End-Of-World predictions, with some well known names: Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, Isaac Newton, John Wesley, Louis Farrakhan, Nostradamus. Yes, my church made the list. And it is still happening. I can see the temptation - the Bible does predict a cataclysmic end of this world, and it really does look like we are living in the last days, so it has to be soon, right? But the Bible has something to say about false prophets.
Deut 18:22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Let's look at some recent examples.

Remember Harold Camping? He made the list by picking a couple different dates.

Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, whereupon the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world. He had previously predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994.
His prediction for May 21, 2011, was widely reported, in part because of a large-scale publicity campaign by Family Radio, and it prompted ridicule from atheist organizations. Wikipedia(Harold Camping) [6]

At least Harold admitted his mistakes and quit setting dates. And as far as I know, he didn't try to have sex with all his female followers.
Mr. Camping conceded that he had been wrong about the timing and had no evidence that the world would end soon. He offered an apology for his erroneous statements, which he called “sinful,” and hinted that his days of apocalyptic warnings were over. NY Times(Harold Camping Dies) [7]

 More recently (2017),  David Meade made the list predicting that a planet called Nibiru will come close to earth.
David Meade, the Christian nutjob numerologist who predicted the end of the world for Saturday (Sept 23, 2017) now says we’ll all die in October - Techly(Christian Numerologist) [8]

NASA plainly says Nibiru is a hoax, though recently (Oct 2017) they do admit there is something big out there.
Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist -NASA(Beyond 2012) [9].
If a planet is there, it's extremely distant and will stay that way (with no chance -- in case you're wondering -- of ever colliding with Earth, or bringing "days of darkness").It is a possible "Planet Nine" -- a world perhaps 10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case nonetheless - NASA-JPL(Super Earth) [10].

High tech AI prophet Anthony Levandowski did not make the list, but here's what he is prophesying.
Many people in Silicon Valley believe in the Singularity—the day in our near future when computers will surpass humans in intelligence and kick off a feedback loop of unfathomable change. 
When that day comes, Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.” Wired(God Is A Bot) [11]. See also The Birth Ritual of AI [12].

I wish I was done, and I could end here.


So far we've looked at fairly egregious examples of nutjobbery. But there's more, depending on one's definition - people abusing the ones they're supposed to be caring for seems like the work of a nutjob. Mainstream churches may have avoided mass suicides and false prophets (not really), but they have their share of credibility issues. Consider all the child sex abuse cases against the Catholic Church.  Thousands of priests all over the world molested kids and the Catholic Church covered it up.

May 7, 2014, GENEVA -- The Vatican revealed Tuesday that over the past decade, it has defrocked 848 priests who raped or molested children and sanctioned another 2,572 with lesser penalties, providing the first ever breakdown of how it handled the more than 3,400 cases of abuse reported to the Holy See since 2004 - CBS News(Vatican Reveals) [13].

The thing is, the Protestant preachers do the same.
Among other findings, CMR reports that the rate of sexual abuse instances across all denominations is virtually the same, and that the perpetrators are more likely to be volunteers than clergy. According to the 1999 survey data, 42 percent of those accused of child sexual abuse were volunteers and 25 percent were paid staff (some of whom were not necessarily clergy) - Ethics Daily [14]
But as I have said repeatedly over the last few years, the problem of sexual abuse of minors is not an issue of religious affiliation because there is nothing religious about abusing children. The phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors in church settings is the story of sick human beings taking advantage of their position of moral authority to prey on the weak and vulnerable - Protestant Clergy Abuse [15].

I wish I was done now.

From Theology To Racism To Holocaust

What about the nutjobbery of using religion to justify ethnic cleansing? The Catholic Church taught antisemitism for some 1500 years and acted surprised when Hitler took it to the extreme. In some ways, the holocaust was a logical end of the church's teachings. I've written more about this in The Cross At Auschwitz [16].
“I (Hitler) have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them into ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. April 26, 1933 - Wikipedia(Christianity and Antisemitism) [17].

 Again, not just the Catholics, Martin Luther also taught antisemitism.
Martin Luther is a pivotal Christian figure, not only because he was the father of the Protestant movement, but also because as one of history’s greatest antisemites he unwittingly contributed to the establishment of the foundation on which Nazi antisemitism was built - Six Million Crucifixions [18].

I really wish I was done now.

So Many Religions From One Book

Then there is the nutjobbery of endless church splits. Today there are 33,000 denominations calling themselves Christian. It is not humanly possible to compare all these religions that claim to base their beliefs on the same book. The book that says "For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many." - Matt 24:5, that is, teaching that Jesus is the Messiah, yet STILL deceiving many.  These churches teach quite different things about what the Bible says. How can the truth be known? Some teach God is a Trinity, some say Two, some say One. Some teach the afterlife is heaven or hell, some don't. Some teach prophecy is already fulfilled, some don't. Some attend church on Sabbath, some attend on Sunday. All from one book. How indeed can the truth be known?

The seeds of division were sown even in New Testament times, but 33,000?  How do we know there are 33,000? And what's a denomination anyway? It has been the life work of David B. Barrett to collate this information - Wikipedia(World Christian Encyclopedia) [18]. Here is what Dave Armstrong [20] says about it.

The World Christian Encyclopedia by David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (2001 edition). 
Never has there been such a thorough reference as the two large volumes, running 1,699 pages, of the World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press. Barrett has doggedly visited most of the lands in person, collecting raw material, including national census figures and United Nations data, and recruiting the 444 specialists who feed him material. 
As defined here, world Christianity consists of 6 major ecclesiastico-cultural blocs, divided into 300 major ecclesiastical traditions, composed of over 33,000 distinct denominations in 238 countries. 
Independents (about 22000)
Protestants (about 9000)
"Marginals" (about 1600)
Orthodox (781)
Roman Catholics (242)
Anglicans (168)

But Wait, There's More

More nutjobbery, that is. I'm going to skip the Inquisition, Witch trials,  and burning heretics at the stake. I'm going to skip other religions that teach and practice suicide bombings, terrorism, honor killings, and killing infidels in the name of God. I'm going to just call them religious nutjobs. I will stick to Christianity, because I am a believer. But it's too easy to see how "the name of God  is evil spoken of among the nations because of you" - Rom 2:24.

When people speak about religious nutjobs, they often talk about zealous Christians who are "in their face" or "shoving religion down their throat", or apparently someone who calls atheists fools.  I learned that the word translated "fool" means more than I thought.
In this text, the Hebrew word is nabal, which often refers to an impious person who has no perception of ethical or religious truth. The meaning of the text is not “unintelligent people do not believe in God.” Rather, the meaning of the text is “sinful people do not believe in God.” - GotQuestions [21].
And who doesn't sin? Meaning we are all nabal at times.  There was a man named Nabal in the Bible, who was known to live up to his name. Even his wife Abigail said to David before he was king, "Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him." - 1 Sam 25:25. Don't be like Nabal.

Why Doesn't God Just ...?

In a sense though, God doesn't make it easy. We see the wars, the death, illness, and tragedy, the global suffering, and wonder why doesn't God stop it? Those antagonistic towards God see what they think is a contradiction, that if God is all powerful, and all loving, how can He let these horrors go on? How can a Christian apologist explain that one? I'm not aware of anyone asking that about Allah.

The Truth Is In There

It looks like I've been making the atheist's case. When one looks at the false religion, the hypocrisy, even the wars and so on, all of these in God's name, it's hard to want to be in that number. How can a believer say "But MY religion is different"? In other words,

How Do You Preach The Gospel To An Atheist?

My first thought was to show them logically that God exists, and that the Bible is His word to mankind. My second thought was that probably has never worked in all of history. My third thought was "miracles", but I'm not in charge of making miracles. What I can tell an atheist is that God changed my life. If friends from my twenties happen to read my blog, they probably wonder who am I to write such things? My church friends probably wonder the same thing. I know at times I do. Nowadays I sometimes refer to my "colorful past", but it wasn't colorful, it was ugly. See, it's all personal to me, I have Someone who literally saved me. The church talks about God opening one's mind, and from the beginning (in my twenties), God changed the way I think. I understand the Bible in ways I couldn't before. One simple test is this, "by their fruits you shall know them" - Matt 7:20. Thanks to God, my fruits are different from what they were.

Sadly, my fruits apparently weren't enough to prevent the nutjob label. Thirty years of friendship and working together couldn't stand up to quoting one verse. I know I don't live up to the ideal. I worry that my example, even a good example, could actually drive someone away from God. Do I regret quoting that verse? Yes and no. I regret losing a friend, I don't regret speaking the truth. 

What about all the people I mentioned above? Look at their fruits - killings, false prophecies, sex abuse, and more killings. I would say most of them were using religion as a cloak for their own evil. I would say perhaps all of them were deceived, even if they started out on the right track. Every suicide cult, every false prophecy, every sex abuse scandal, every killing in the name of God, every hypocrisy makes people shrink back. All of them make God look bad.

When this atheist looks up into the night sky, he experiences awe. That's good and proper, but it looks to me like awe in the Big Bang, rather than the One who made the Big Bang. He reaches nearly the same question as King David in Psalm 8 "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?"
During clear, dark nights, when I look up at the endless starry infinity and try to hold that entire expanse in my head, and discover anew that this is an impossible task – at such times, I experience a genuine sense of awe. The universe we live in is a far greater and more incredible place than we can imagine.

And in comparison to all this, what are we? What is the place of humanity in the grand scheme of things? 
We are, in a sense, the universe examining itself. From our tiny and remote corner of the cosmos, we have gazed across the light-years, unraveled the natural laws that hold on the very largest of scales, and traced our own origins all the way back to the Big Bang. How can such profound understanding not instill in us a sense of awe? - In Awe Of Everything [22]

When an atheist looks at life and sees a long chain of random events, I see incredible design, and stand in wonder (more awe). When an atheist looks at suffering and thinks God is uncaring, I see Him playing the long game to win as many people as He can. And when I suffer whether it was my fault or not, I know in the end He will make it right. We can't think God should solve the world's suffering our way and on our schedule. Jesus did say He would come again, false prophets notwithstanding, and when He does, He will set things right His way and on His schedule.


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_suicide#Religiously_motivated_suicides
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven%27s_Gate_%28religious_group%29
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_siege
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Camping
7. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/us/harold-camping-radio-entrepreneur-who-predicted-worlds-end-dies-at-92.html
8. https://www.techly.com.au/2017/09/25/christian-numerologist-updates-doomsday-prediction-to-october/
9. https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html
10. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2017-259
11. https://www.wired.com/story/god-is-a-bot-and-anthony-levandowski-is-his-messenger/
12. https://hiddeninthecrag.com/2017/10/14/the-birth-ritual-of-ai/
13. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vatican-reveals-how-many-priests-defrocked-for-sex-abuse-since-2004/
14. http://www.ethicsdaily.com/news.php?viewStory=16146
15. https://www.facebook.com/notes/leonard-alt/147-protestant-clergy-abuse-equals-or-exceeds-catholic-clergy-abuse/431640530219229
16. http://jlfreeman-1.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-cross-at-auschwitz.html
17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_antisemitism
18. http://www.sixmillioncrucifixions.com/Home.html
19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Christian_Encyclopedia
20. http://philvaz.com/apologetics/a120.htm
21. https://www.gotquestions.org/fool-heart-no-God.html
22. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/in-awe-of-everything/