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Republished from 2007 in response to the front page diary about crazy televangelists calling down the wrath of God on America

According to Reverend Phelps, Dobson, Falwell, D'souza and various other jugheads, God crashed an airplane into the WTC to punish us for homosexuality. More specifically, we're being punished for all that darned sodomy.

I can go with the first part: God crashed those airplanes into the WTC, God killed the dinosaurs, and someday God will kill me. But televangelists' claim that God did this to punish specific people seems unlikely, and the idea that God killed these people because someone else committed sodomy is somewhere between stupid and obscene.

I'm leaning more towards "obscene" because televangelists have adopted one of  Al Queda core beliefs - that Osama Bin Laden is an instrument of God's will. "Aid and comfort" indeed! Our televangelists seem to be Al Queda propagandists. Both Al Queda and our televangelists make OBL sort of  like Santa Claus. He's knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.

The idea that terrorists are merely carrying out the will of God raises an interesting question - although Christians have enough free will to chose between good (having kids) and evil (having butt sex), apparently OBL lacks free will. I guess that mean that for our televangelists, OBL is not a sinner. Lets ponder their Bizzaro world theology...


The televangelists' idea that disasters and personal bad luck comes directly from God predates the Book of Job. But the idea that evil people are agents of God seems more novel, more like some sort of heresy that would get people burned at the stake. But in everyday experience it seems to make some sort of sense since nearly every woman that microwaves her baby claims to be directed by God. And doesn't W claim to be directed God? And don't the teles concur? 9 out of 10 lunatics agree!

Terrorists seem to have replaced natural disasters as examples of God's wrath. We did not hear the televangelists claiming that the Indonesian tsunami was punishment aimed at all those Indonesian Muslims that got killed. Interestingly, the Muslim clerics in the region were quick to claim bragging rights to the big wave, saying it was Allah's punishment for loose morals and letting those filthy Christians on their nice beaches.  

Strangely enough, although the televangelists see terrorists as the hand of God, the rest of us sinners still have enough free will to go to Hell. Free will causes us to do all sort of bad things over and over. Masturbating once is a lapse of judgment, but doing it 5,000 times is just plain wrong. If OBL crashes a plane, in the eyes of terrorists and televangelists alike, he is merely following Gods orders.  Televangelists see OBL as an act nature like and earthquake or tornado. Is a tornado a sin? It kills, but it can hardly be called "sinful."  After all:

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. (Nahum 1:3)
I believe I have free will, and I know that I've committed all kinds of sins: major, minor, mortal,venial you name it (not to mention sins of omission). I've done baaaad things. But is it fair that I'm a "sinner" just for buying an issue of Penthouse or Playboy (or Hustler or Gent or Club or Jugs or Barely Legal or Cherry or - well you get the idea)? But if terrorists lack free will, then they aren't sinners. Is this fair? Maybe the GOP doesn't care about catching OBL because they see it as rebelling against God's will.

I also consider this model of sin and punishment unfair because we don't seem to be getting any credits for our good behavior. Sure we have elevated levels of sodomy, but a general lack of access to livestock means that we have relatively little bestiality. Surely that has to count for something. I mean, come on!

And what is this thing where God now kills strangers to punish us for our sins? Punishment is most effective when it is linked to the sin. An atheist would know this. When a driver gets drunk and crashes into a bridge abutment, any fool can see the direct relationship between bad behavior (drunk driving) and consequences (fiery death). Traditional versions of hell even included punishment tailored for each sin.

But the Old Testament repudiates the idea that misfortune is always a punishment for sin, and it is very clear on the idea that sometime bad things happen to good people.   In the Book of Job, even though Job is a righteous man, he loses everything in a series of calamities.  None of these seem to be his fault, such as the wind that knocks down his house and kills his sons, or the terrible disease that leaves him disfigured.  And the point is, that God did all these things to Job for no reason whatsoever. The story starts with a conversation between Satan and God (the only one on the Bible) where they wager like Greek gods that misfortune can turn Job away from God. It is God who does all these things to Job.  When Job questions God, the allmighty gives him a serious lecture about how he works in mysterious ways. Job's neighbors (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) come over and berate Job that he must have committed some sin that requires him to repent.  God appears to tells "Job's comforters"  to all have a tall cold glass of shut the fuck up, and restores Job's health and fortune.  

The televangelists have tossed out the idea of direct consequences, and even the idea of a mysterious God. Will having impure thoughts about your hot cousin cause OBL to fly a 757 through your bedroom window? Not according to the televangelists, who tell us that Gods punishment is more likely to kill a soldier in Iraq than punishing the sinner. Back in the Old Testament, God could smite like a laser, putting the triple whammy on scofflaws like Lot's wife and Onan. Nowadays, the televangelists tell us God's aim is no better than your drunken roommate that would never put up the toilet seat.  According to folks like Phelps, when someone sins in Detroit, a soldier dies in Iraq.

To me, this is not very satisfying. God won't kill me for sinning but he'll randomly kill some stranger 5000 miles away instead? He's going to kill me anyway, so get on with it! Most people would not see the deterrent value in God killing some corporal in Anbhar, most of them would say "Yeah baby, sign me up for that, let someone else be the scapegoat." That also raise the question of who the Iraqi civilians are being killed punish - the Australians? We're left with this ambiguous sense of God as a very clumsy disciplinarian.

In addition to the obvious awkwardness of the televangelist model, they also can't make predictions based on their supposedly amazing knowledge of God's ways. When they have tried to predict divine wrath, things have fallen flat. When the Dover Pennsylvania judge shot down Intelligent Design in the Dover schools, Pat Robertson predicted the Jehovah would go all Cecil B. DeMill with Old Testament style disasters. But it didn't happen. No, they can only claim credit for stuff that already happened. So they have to claim that apparently sins and distant disasters are connected. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, baby. But we should not be too harsh on them, since religion by definition is based on untestable beliefs.

So in the televangelist world, given God's notoriously bad aim, maybe the residents of Greensburg Kansas got hit with the tornado meant for Dover Pennsylvania. Or maybe the tornado was pay-back for Las Vegas where there's real sin going on. Well, we can be relatively sure that someone should take the rap for causing that. Was it the homosexual's again?

This would seem to cast teh Gays in the role traditionally given to witches. Witches provided a kludgey workaround to explain all the bad things that happen to good people without making God look like a real jerk. A couple hundred years ago, we would have blamed everything on witchcraft. Tornado in Kansas? Witches! Cow died? Witches! Washed my car and it rained? Witches!  But witches weren't really in the business of punishing sinners - as agents of Satan, not God, why would witches punish sinners? No, witches cast spells on good people. Then, when good people suffered bad luck, they would accuse their neighbors of being witches and have them tortured to death.

I posed this question to someone raised in a rural church congregation for a more traditional slant on things,and they said the answer was simple - demons! People do bad things because they are influenced by demons. I have always considered this to be a disturbingly pagan outlook because it requires a weak God and a pantheon of minor supernatural players.

So where are the GOP candidates on this - several of them dispute evolution and seem to understand the mind of God to the smallest detail, so as long as we're playing the "tear down the wall of separation," I'd love to hear more. Is OBL an agent of Gods will or is he demon possessed? Do Americans have free will or are they demon possessed? If we lay off the sodomy, will we win the GWOT? I'd love to hear that debated. Even if OBL isn't demon-possessed, how many of the GOP candidates believe that we demons control the average American?

The possibilities are endless. Do we want to shape our foreign policy around a belief in demons? I suggested to my friend that we should have the GOP candidates debate the finer point of demonology. And if this is going to be part of our federal policy, then there should be a federal agency in charge of demons (if there isn't one already) and some federal policy papers on the subject. Let the American Enterprise Institute tackle the subject as well. They've apparently been using Ouija boards for years, so this should not be too much of a stretch.

Of course, this reduces God to a rather feckless deity struggling in a larger supernatural cosmos where our world hangs in the balance.  God needs our prayers and sacrifices like so much Red Bull.  While fundamentalists'  moral take-it-or-leave absolutism has always been effective at making their children into estranged atheists, their weak and petty vision of God also provides a solid philosophical basis for atheism. This is nicely summarized by the Epicurian paradox, as paraphrased by David Hume

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?"
Wikipedia has a nice article on the concept of evil

Originally posted to bernardpliers on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 03:47 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  God Collaborating With Muslims, Repudiates: (11+ / 0-)

    Right Wing Christian/Evangelist Dogma?  God only speaks to Christians is what I'd always been told, everybody else is going to hell...

  •  I didn't realize the tradition of this genre... (8+ / 0-)

    when I wrote:
    Hurricane Sandy, God's Message to America

    On the Dkos version some comments took it literally and gave me hell.

  •  Here's the problem in your approach... (3+ / 0-)

    Not here, not among secularists, but maybe in a much larger scope.  What you describe is the pre-scientific explanation of all causation, that now is addressed more effectively by academic studies under rubrics such as psychology, sociology, anthropology and even biblical history.  All are a part of the enlightenment that were expanded in the Germanic speaking countries in the 19th century.

    We now have the phenomenon of the merger of the political right with this theology, so we see the theology as absurd, as well highlighted by this diary, and then make the conclusion that all of the arguments based on it are equally absurd.  This does not follow.

    There is a secular right, that makes various arguments on social and economic issues that have been so damaged by fundamentalist Christians, that the actual position is too easily dismissed.  But not completely, as these become issues that can never be joined or resolved.  

    The obverse of this satiric article is that negation of this theological absurdity becomes obligatory,  almost tribal.  Not only does this perpetuate disagreement of ends and means, but of how to address this difference.  This takes the form of a certain rigidity of thinking among the left that does not advance intellectual growth or social coexistence.


    •  And Whose Fault Is That? (8+ / 0-)

      Country club conservatives may not like being lumped in with the snake handlers, but there it is.  That's a political coalition, not a nasty liberal stereotype.  The high water mark may have been under Dubya with the "prosperity Christians" with their muscular ass-kicking Crusader Jesus.  Romney wasn't the ideal candidate from that standpoint, but we'll have to wait until the smoke clears to see where the GOP fault lines are at.

      There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

      by bernardpliers on Sat Nov 17, 2012 at 05:27:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  teasing out fault not so easy.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, glorificus, ConfusedSkyes

        Before 1948, the democratic party was an alliance of southern segregationists, Northern city machine, segregated labor unions, and some progressive thinkers.  Did FDR really welcome the KKK who supported him?

        Positions harden and tribalism happens.  Yes, W was a both a partisan and a simplistic believer in what you so well describe.  His father was less so, but also did not consider atheists as legitimate Americans.

        Lest we forget, Billy Graham had an open door to all Presidents of both parties, as we have never had a real secular party in this country.  

        I do tend to expect more of Democrats, which is why I linked the essay on my previous comment to show that this party is far from faultless, which doesn't imply that the other is not worse.

    •  I have no problem using their language to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      communicate concepts to that group. But seriously, the ones that so damage Christian theology and doctrinal authority with their idiocy, all like to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, insulating themselves with their own books, their own language, their own yellow pages, so they only have to patronize their own businesses.

      So really, we can try, but it takes two to communicate, and I just don't have it in me to pretend I have the energy to deal with this 40 year long temper tantrum coming from the extreme fringes parading as the new normal.

  •  God really has much better aim (8+ / 0-)

    When Rick Perry and his buddies were busy praying for rain and there was a hurricane in the gulf headed for east Texas, God turned it right at the Louisiana border.

    As to OBL, God had the CIA send Dumbya all kinds of warnings. but as they say, against stupidity even God strives in vain.

  •  What are (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Things you find in the more interesting dive bars" Alex?

  •  Dobson, Phelps, etc are not Christians (4+ / 0-)

    They are grifters and charlatans making money off of people who are ignorant and scared.  

    •  ...And They Are Peddling A Neo-Pagan Religion (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Which was sort of the point I was making.

      There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

      by bernardpliers on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 08:53:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey - pagans didn't fight religious wars. (0+ / 0-)

        Religious intolerance is inherent to the belief that there is a singular god you must obey and whose enemies you must destroy.  And monotheism has a long bloody history of religious intolerance.

        and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

        by ban48 on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 12:06:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Greeks And Romans Weren't Monotheists nt (0+ / 0-)

          There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

          by bernardpliers on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 01:09:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and they did not fight religious wars. The romans (0+ / 0-)

            were very tolerant of other religions.  They had dozens of pagan sects peacefully existing side-by-side within their empire.  In fact, they thought it was as absurd for other nationalities to adopt Roman religion as we would expect mexico to adopt the 4th of July as a national holiday.

            and their contempt for the Latin schools was applauded by Theodoric himself, who gratified their prejudices, or his own, by declaring that the child who had trembled at a rod would never dare to look upon a sword.

            by ban48 on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 01:23:22 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  And of course the guy with free will (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shockwave, GreenMother, glorificus

    Commits rape because God wants to create that baby, even though it would be just as easy to cause a virgin birth.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 05:58:25 AM PST

  •  Millions live in the televangelist world (0+ / 0-)

    Their beliefs are not just wrong, they are bizarre.  Are their numbers decreasing or increasing? Then again Mormonism is  the fastest growing religion in America and their beliefs are equally bizarre.  

    How is it possible that so many people are so incapable of questioning any of these beliefs?  Is it a mental deficiency? A disease?

    These two groups went for Romney by close to 80% (and Mormons).  This in spite of the fact that evangelicals consider Mormonism a cult.

    So the religious right has become a solid block that marches in step.  Millions of America, with bizarre beliefs, in a disciplined block of voters.  I expect them to go quiet for a while.  But they will be back.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 07:07:39 AM PST

  •  The religion of televangelists is so childish (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They ascribe all these human characteristics to God - hope, anger, desire, etc.  Obsurd !

  •  Corporations are Demons, my friend. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, bernardpliers

    Check out this bit on corporate metabolism and how corporations came to be, plus how akin they are to demons.  A long but interesting read.

  •  Theodicy will always be a dicey subject at best. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rhysling, glorificus

    New frame for this debate: Anyone who claims theodicy as a genuine cause for a disaster or attack shall from henceforth be known as, "Intellectually lazy dickheads".

    What bothers me most about this practice, is that it is commonly used to attempt to oversimplify, common, but complex social issues that wherever you have more than 10 people gathered at any given time.

    Reducing the emotional currency, and the interpretation of terror attacks to revenge for non-Missionary style sex, is right up there with Boob-Quakes.

    If I really thought that some all-powerful, omnipotent, omniscient being were out to get me, for being kinky in the sack, I am pretty sure I wouldn't even have time to type this out, much less give a sermon on it.

    And there would be a lot more divinely murdered Evangelicals, or is their crusade against porn addiction within their own ranks hype?

    This would solve the entire problem of having to fund abstinence only material. Their god would have killed all the sex perverts by now. So why waste money on something, when a free, cosmic service is provided?

    I still have difficulties grasping the thought, that someone without a serious, mental disability could even swallow something so ridiculous--even if they were illiterate and living in a backwater somewhere. And with that, I will just say, this explains the *dickhead portion of my label for this-because it just seems like an excuse to behave badly and say hurtful things while hiding behind the skirts of a god.

  •  What an interesting discussion to have just now. (0+ / 0-)

    I was raised Christian, but am coming to feel much more philisophically aligned with the Unitarian Universalists.

    Similar (in my mind, anyway) to Athiest's belief in being good for its own sake; not in hopes of a mansion in the sky with those self-professed "Christian" POSes.

    "I believe more women should carry guns. I believe armed women will make the world a better place. Women need to come to think of themselves not as victims but as dangerous." Anna Pigeon

    by glorificus on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 11:16:39 AM PST

  •  God, Ween, Satan (0+ / 0-)

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself. Those who know what I'm talking about also may have had a knee-jerk reaction to correct the title of the diary. Good diary, no disrespect.

    Those who don't know what I'm talking about, never mind. Perhaps someday you'll see the light of Boognish.

  •  Just about my favorite diary title ever. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, bernardpliers

    The body of the diary is interesting, too. As someone who has received a lot from religious teaching about humility, compassion, charity and forgiveness, I tend to be in harmony with the religious left and in solidarity with the secular left.  The religious right can suck it.  And I say that with all the humility, compassion, charity and forgiveness I can muster.  

    Life is good. Injustice? Not so much.

    by westyny on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 04:01:43 PM PST

  •  Absolutely brilliant... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...what a great rap.  My head was (and is) spinning.  "So's mine," says my Wife, reading over my shoulder.

    I wrote a diary long back on the notion that God is incompetent.  It's called "God Is A Post Turtle."

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 06:14:18 PM PST

    •  I Remember That Diary About The Post Turtle (0+ / 0-)

      I wrote mine back in 2007 when I was under quite a bit of stress, which is when I am at my funniest.  i just let it flow, without much revising.  At the time, i was disappointed that nobody seemed to get it, but timing and chance counts for a lot.  I reposted it yesterday because it had become relevant again, and it was nice that it got Community Spotlight.

      There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

      by bernardpliers on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 06:42:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The title of this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    sounds like my typical annual holiday party.

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