Many people of monotheist faith claim that religion makes people moral. And without it, ignorance of divine guidance will condemn an individual to a sinful life. Is there any evidence for their position? Hardly. If the “God is a force for good” argument is valid, why does the Bible Belt lead the nation in violent and non-violent crimes? And why is the relatively godless North East the safest region of the country?
Religion is also a poor force for reducing non-criminal immorality. Take divorce — a moral failing under religious rules. The Bible Belt — with the conservative mountain states and Utah — leads the nation in dissolved marriages. This geographical distribution may reflect that religious people marry younger. And what young lovers do in haste, they may repent at leisure. Regardless, there is nothing to suggest that God keeps the wandering eye blind.
Take the all-too-typical tale of spiritual leader and Christian rocker Andi Rozier. This month, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs fired him as a worship leader when the church discovered he was shtupping a woman who was not his wife.
Adultery happens — the best estimate is that about 25% of married people cheat — but it is not a good look for someone who holds himself up as a moral guide for a sinful congregation. It is a habit for Rozier. He has repeatedly been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
For almost two decades in Chicago, Rozier served as a worship pastor at the Harvest Bible Chapel and was part of its band, Vertical Worship. That gig included a 2002 suspension from his duties for moral reasons. Although, as seems typical in Christian organizations, he was later forgiven for his transgressions and reinstated. Fair enough — if he had not committed a crime.
However, the lesson did not stick. In 2019, Harvest Church terminated him. The church attested they axed him because he “had a pattern of being disruptive.” He was “insulting, belittling, and verbally bullying others.” He “improperly exercising positional and spiritual authority.” And for his “extravagant spending utilizing church resources resulting in personal benefit.”
Luckily for Rozier, being a reprehensible religious leader is apparently the same as being an abusive cop. If a church or police department fires a bad actor, they will find another job in a different town or state. Sure enough, the self-congratulatory, good people at New Life Church invited this toxic personality into their fold.
The leopard did not change his spots. He learned no lesson from his dismissal. And even with the moral guidance of his faith, this lothario proved incapable of being faithful to his wife - a feat many atheists accomplish.
The management of the New Life Church knows which side its religious bread is buttered - and they have thrown their support behind Rozier’s wife and their four children. In an email statement to The Christian Post, Executive Pastor Brian Newberg wrote, "We are walking alongside [Rozier's] wife and children to help them heal." Adding, "Andi is no longer a part of our pastoral team."
The New Life Church has experience in weathering scandals. It was founded in 1984 by the notorious anti-LGBTQ crusader Ted Haggert. In 2006, this infamous hypocrite was outed as a gay man, fond of drugs and paid sex. A male masseur and prostitute Haggard frequented revealed he had sold Haggard meth - and given him three years of happy endings.
Religion has not taught this fabulist anything. Nor has it given him a utilizable or effective moral code. In 2010 Haggard founded a new church, St. James, also in Colorado Springs. In 2022, he was again outed for sexual aggression to men — including a minor, who said,
“Sometimes when he touches me, it feels very predatorial and very strange. He’ll touch me on my pecs or my back or hug me in a way that I’m sliding up his hip or the side of his thigh or his bum. You can kind of tell it’s weird.”
And, "There's a lot of highly suspicious things that he does, and you're like, 'that doesn't seem or feel normal.'"
In April 2022, St James sold its church building as its membership declined. Haggard blamed COVID. However, his “abuse of authority and his denying it” - as one congregant described it - may well have been the reason. Another parishioner called him
”a powerful, influential, persuasive, and manipulative source. But silver-tongued. A snake in many ways, who makes excuses and lies"
Although even this skill set was unable to dam the outflow.
At 67, Haggard shows no signs of slowing down. Undaunted by the loss of his church, he intends to conduct services out of his home. This plan should scare the bejesus out of anyone who cares about child welfare. As reported by The Denver Gazette,
“Haggard said during his Easter sermon in April that he’s been preparing his home for the new church model by expanding a concrete pad in the backyard for outdoor services, and opening the basement to kids, who can use a pool table, play games and participate in other kid-friendly diversions.”
Therein lies religion’s baleful influence. Like the cigarette company executives, religious leaders have long known you have to hook customers young. As Aristotle said, “Give me a child until he is 7, and I will show you the man.”
People who grow up in religious families are primed from toddlerhood to believe that God (the right one) is an all-powerful, all-good supreme being. Religious parents, in cahoots with the local church, encourage their impressionable children to do right by God. And warn youthful supplicants that if they do not swear obedience to this almighty agent of moral indoctrination, they will suffer an eternity of unimaginable torture with no reprieve.
To get on the right side of this wrathful psychopath, the miserable sinner has to shower cash on a person standing near an altar. It is an arrangement that con artists feel honor-bound to use to their benefit.
For centuries, all manner of greedy sociopaths have taken advantage of people the church has trained to be taken advantage of. I feel sorry for those who are religious for all the right reasons — support, community, guidance, encouragement, charity, and comfort. They swim in what are often shark-infested waters.
All religions should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. And any believer, who keeps their religion to themselves, should be safe in their faith. But any church that demands their way be the country's way must be resisted. And anyone who tries to insert their beliefs into the body politic should be slapped back with vigor. Civilized people must live by the law code — not by some arbitrary, self-serving moral code. Particularly as the proponents of these codes often do not have the decency to follow the directives themselves.