A Plea to Wealthy Christians

 

I have just finished reading a book of “Atheist Responses to Religious Arguments” by Frank Butcher. It’s pretty much a confirmation of what I know already, but one of the last points the author made really got me thinking.

Why don’t wealthy christians give away their wealth, as the bible requires them to do if they want to go to heaven?

In the parable of the rich young man, Jesus is said to have declared: “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then, come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

and “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” Mark 10:25

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we shall be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-10

Clearly the new testament, which is the bit of the bible christians really approve of, is in favour of poverty. The above are just three of many admonitions to the godly to be happy with the basics and not crave wealth.

“blessed are the poor”

And yet, the world is full of super-rich christians! Some of them are “spiritual leaders” who preach the gospel of prosperity – they claim that the bible teaches that financial blessings are the will of god, that faith, positive speech and donations will always increase one’s material wealth (especially donations!)

A good example is that of Oral Roberts, whose Methodist healing ministries reached millions worldwide. He performed hundreds of crusades, and claimed that he could raise the dead. His organisation raked in $120 million a year and employed 2 300 people, at its peak.

Roberts was a pioneer of TV evangelism. In January 1987 he announced that unless he raised $8 million by March, his god would kill him.

 

His passionate pleas and crocodile tears earned him $9.1 million…..

He’s dead now – maybe he wasn’t making enough money to satisfy his god towards the end there 🙂

Even when times were tough, Roberts continued to wear silk suits, diamond rings and gold bracelets – which were airbrushed out of publicity shots by his staff. (Reed Christopher (15/12/2009) “Oral Roberts Obituary”, The Guardian, London.)

Spreading the gospel has been a VERY profitable business for other evangelists:

  • Benny Hinn’s healing crusades earned him in excess of $200 million a year, with a personal salary of over $500 000. He flies around in a private jet, and has a generally lavish lifestyle
  • Joyce Meyer reportedly earned $900 000 a year back in 2003, thanks to her ministry
  • Kenneth Copeland refuses to tell anyone how much money he makes out of the god-business, but it’s obviously quite a bit because he owns a $20 million private jet, and lives in a mansion the size of a hotel.
  • Creflo Dollar (name says it all) made $69 million in 2006, but refuses to divulge his financial records because he is “concerned for the privacy” of his donors.
  • The list goes on and on…

These preachers lead tax-exempt organisations in the USA, and take full advantage of their “non-profit” status. Obviously, their followers are either unaware of how much money their “spiritual” leaders are making out of them, or they are simply turning a blind eye to the facts.

Copeland’s website, for instance, in his “Financial Accountability” section, merely lists the PERCENTAGES of income spent on the various parts of his ministry – NO actual figures are mentioned anywhere that I could see.

Oral Roberts Ministries “financial report” shows EXPENDITURE, but not INCOME! Sorry guys, that’s not a financial report – that’s you trying to hide the facts.

Benny Hinn’s website actually lists financially relevant questions, such as “How does your ministry spend its money” and then links to a page that tells you what they spend it ON, but not how much they receive, or the amounts they actually spend.

So much for transparency and telling the TRUTH!

So, what about the ordinary, wealthy christian? Do they feel any compulsion to give away their wealth? Especially now, supposedly just before the “rapture”

to be sure of their spot amongst the eternally worshipful and subservient in heaven?

Many christians give regularly to charities, which is very commendable. It doesn’t make them any different from many muslims, jews, buddhists and atheists who all feel compassion for our fellow man, and don’t have any problem supporting worthy causes.

Fortunately, as a Humanist (and atheist), I make my own choices. I am not bound by someone else’s ideas of what’s right or wrong. I’m especially not bound by the “supernatural” ideas of ancient nomadic desert dwellers, and their descendents. I choose to support secular charities such as the National Sea Rescue Institute of South Africa. Unlike the TV evangelists, the NSRI really does save lives, every day!

Bill Gates. a well-known atheist, has set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and personally donates a large proportion of his wealth to the Foundation, which does very good work in the fields of health, education and agriculture all over the world. Their audited Financial statements are on the web, completely transparent, for anybody to examine – a nice contrast to the charlatans listed above!

Interesting to note: the Gates’ Foundation’s motto is “All Lives Have Value.” This is an atheist/humanist viewpoint, as opposed to the christian or muslim viewpoint that if you’re homosexual, for instance, you have no right to marriage, children, and at the extremist end – life itself. (Or if you’re a muslim, it’s okay to kill innocents in the name of Jihad.)

Please don’t say “Oh, but that’s the EXTREME view, normal christians don’t think that!” Here’s something to think about:

  • the bible specifically forbids homosexuality, and if you believe the bible, then so should you – even though that view is abhorrent to any rational person – because it is the Word of God
  • extremists don’t just pop out of the air – they start out as normal human beings, are thoroughly indoctrinated as children, and grow more extremist the deeper they get immersed into religion
  • extremists are the ones who follow the bible to the letter – especially the old testament which condones slavery, rape, murder, and other heinous crimes against humanity.

 

In my opinion it’s entirely up to you, the individual, to decide how to spend your hard-earned money. I think it’s most important to take care of yourself and your family, save for your retirement, and enjoy your life. If you have money to donate to charities, by all means do so if you want to.

However, if you’re a christian, and truly want to follow Jesus, then I guess you would feel differently? So, Wealthy Christian, are you going to give it all away – the land, the houses, the cash and jewellery – or hang onto it until death do you part?

What Would Jesus Do 🙂

 

 

Faith versus Medical Science

The husband of a colleague of mine has been very ill, and was admitted to a hospital yesterday for tests. I understand he has seen various doctors already, including a neurologist, but there has been no definite diagnosis as yet.

It sounds as though he might have had a stroke, or be suffering from epilepsy, or possibly a tumour – I’m not a doctor, so I can’t speculate. He was admitted to quite a good hospital, they ran some tests, and have decided to transfer him to a better hospital in Pretoria, for further tests. His doctors are obviously taking his plight seriously, and are investigating every angle. I truly hope they can find out what is wrong, and treat him successfully – for the sake of his wife and children.

I asked my colleague today how she was handling the stress, and during our conversation she got quite emotional… who wouldn’t be emotional in her situation? I tried to reassure her, telling her she should be grateful for the doctors, nurses and hospitals, for the sophisticated medical equipment and treatments available – they will do everything in their power to diagnose and treat him.

(If he’d been born in the Middle Ages, he might have been subject to all sorts of horrendous “treatments,” any one of which might have killed him! Blood-letting was particularly popular….. Fortunately, medical science has evolved since then!)

Sometimes an illness is too far advanced to be treated successfully, and sometimes there is no known cure…. Holding back her tears, my colleague said “All I can do is have faith in God to help us.”

That got me thinking: why would anyone think that God can make a difference in this situation? If God cared, wouldn’t he have prevented her husband getting sick in the first place? If he was powerless to prevent the illness, couldn’t he have used his omnipotent superpowers to guide the doctors to make a quick diagnosis, instead of putting this family through this torture?

Of course, the True Believer will respond that this man’s illness, and the pain and anguish of his wife and children are all part of some “Divine Plan.”

I can’t imagine what Plan would consist of such cruelty – clearly this god is a bit of a sadist – but assuming that is correct and there is a Plan of some sort – what point would there be in praying to him for help? He clearly has his mind made up already!


Here’s an interesting thought experiment: take 100 religious people and 100 non-believers. Inject them all with a bacterium which is normally fatal. Isolate each group on a separate island, with food and shelter, and give the atheists the antibiotic known to be effective against the bacterial infection.

Don’t give the religious group any antibiotics – instead send out a worldwide news release, asking people of the same religious persuasion to pray for the religious group to be healed by their god. Naturally, there will be a massive response and the heavens will positively ring with the desperate prayers of the faithful.

Come back to each island in 3 months time, and count the survivors.

Any guess as to which group will have the greatest number still living?

Most people would admit that the group of non-believers would have the most survivors, because the gods don’t really answer prayers. (Ask any religious person you know if they would volunteer to be in the religious group, and I can guarantee they will come up with a really good excuse to not participate!)

My colleague would be better off putting her confidence in the doctors and hospitals who are actually DOING something to help her husband. These people and institutions are REAL  i.e. they can be shown to actually exist

You don’t have to have “FAITH” in them. You can hate and distrust them if you want to. They will still do their very best, apply their knowledge and experience, use their diagnostic tools, and try to help regardless of how you feel about them. They don’t need you to worship them. They WANT to cure your illness, and all they ask is to be reimbursed for their time and skill.

If you need to be convinced of the terrible HARM that can come from relying on faith that a god, any god, will heal you – read this! You can pick up any newspaper on almost any day and find similar stories. Faith is not an effective medical treatment!

I’m not referring exclusively to the christian version of faith healing here – most religions claim that their god has the power to heal, and works through humans, animals or even inanimate objects. (Even bits of rock are supposed to be able to heal – see my article on the Atlantean Power Crystals.)

I feel deep compassion for people who are deceived by faith healing. It’s not their fault – they have been brought up to believe it. They have probably never heard an alternate view – and even when they do, they tend to reject such views outright because they have invested too much in their religion already. It’s a hard habit to break, apparently.

Here is a video by Derren Brown, which explains how faith healers deceive people into believing they have special powers.  Here is James Randi’s expose of Peter Popoff who received radio transmissions through a wireless earpiece during his healing crusades, feeding him information about the audience who had filled out prayer cards before the performances….. Fortunately, this charlatan is no longer in the faith healing business!

Trickery and fraud by faith healers has been exposed many, many times – read James Randi’s excellent book “Faith Healers” for more infamous examples. If so many faith healers are using these tricks, how do you know if any one faith healer really does have Special Powers?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!

So far the evidence is stacked high and wide against faith healing.

Supernatural claims are outside of the realm of scientific study, but some scientists have tried to measure the effects of prayer and found them to be largely absent or negative. I found some interesting articles, mostly reaching similar conclusions:

“Meta-studies of the broader literature have been performed showing evidence only for no effect or a potentially small effect. For instance, a 2006 meta analysis on 14 studies concluded that there is “no discernable effect” while a 2007 systemic review of intercessory prayer reported inconclusive results, noting that 7 of 17 studies had “small, but significant, effect sizes” but the review noted that the three most methodologically rigorous studies failed to produce significant findings.” from Wikipedia

Prayer is often credited with rather unmiraculous benefits, such as recovery from heart surgery which would most likely have happened anyway, especially if the patient is in intensive care, receiving medication and expert nursing 24/7.

I think the real “miracle” is the dedication of the nurses, the intelligence of the doctors and the persistence of the researchers. We are living in an age of amazing advances in medical science – why does anybody bother with the Sky Fairy and his Associates?

SQUID, chakras and other assorted electromagnetic Woo

I am surprised at how many people I meet believe that the human body is surrounded by a large internally generated electro-magnetic field. They use this field as an explanation for New Age woo such as Auras, Chakras, Ghosts, Reiki, Chi, and so on.

Let’s examine the idea.

First off, I have done quite an extensive search and I can find nothing I would call a CREDIBLE source that even mentions such a field, in the way the Woo Brigade describe it.

I did find credible information that confirms that tiny electrical currents in the brain travel from neuron to neuron, and when they reach a muscle, trigger chemical reactions that make the muscle fibres contract or relax. This is what makes your heart beat, allows you to move about, and is generally accepted to be pretty essential for life.

As for magnetic fields – every cell in your body has ion channels that allow ions to pass through their surface, which results in a tiny voltage and creates a tiny magnetic field. This magnetic field is very, very weak. Much weaker than any magnetic field in your environment.

Non-credible sources, such as this one,  claim that “biomagnetic fields” (pulsing magnetic fields emitted by all tissues and organs of the body) surrounding the body have been measured by a Superconducting Quantum Interference Device (SQUID), and that these fields can be used to diagnose and treat illness.

A SQUID is a highly sensitive scientific instrument, and is used in medicine to measure very weak magnetic fields, such as the neural activity of the brain and heart. The diagnosis part of the claim is at least partially correct – what about the “treatment” part?

Apparently, the magnetic fields around the body provide a more accurate picture of its physiology and pathology than conventional medical instruments do. And, huge pulsating biomagnetic fields emanating from the hands of therapeutic touch “healers” can “jump-start” the soft and hard tissues – such as bones, skin, nerves, capillaries and ligaments –  at specific “frequencies.”

Don’t bother looking for scientific evidence of these wild and fanciful claim anywhere – but you can obtain a list of the articles detailing the “research” from the publishers – Nature’s Own Research Association.

Norah? No, just NORA, don’t panic!

Acupuncture treatment relies on it, and Chakras are also supposed to be a manifestation of this electromagnetic field. Here is an ACTUAL series of exercises, sent to me by a Chakra “healing expert” (At first, they wanted me to pay to get this nonsense, but as I haven’t responded yet, they have dropped their price to zero – because they’re “feeling generous”. No, they think if they rope me in I’ll buy something else of theirs down the line. I won’t.)

“THE CHAKRA ENERGY PATCHING EXERCISE

When there is a leak, you have to patch it. Many people are energy-depleted because they are not able to hold enough life force energy or “chi.” (I thought it was more likely low levels of glucose in the blood?) In this energy condition, you are flushing energy down and away from you, much like a toilet flushes water down. In order to maintain good energy health, you want energy spiraling (sic) up into your base chakra. Here’s one way you can do it in 4 easy steps:

  1. Close your eyes and imagine you can see the energy leaking out of your tailbone (coccyx)
  2. Imagine a patch large enough to cover the skin
  3. Place the patch over the leak
  4. Imagine you go beneath the energy and reverse the flow to spiral it up into your body through your tailbone 

THE CROWN CHAKRA EXERCISE

Why is this important? Life force energy is also fed to us through our crown chakra. (By whom? And how?) The crown chakra is located on the top of your head. We maintain a higher life force energy when our crown chakra is open and active. (What does that mean, exactly?) When the crown chakra is closed or weak, we feel a lack of vitality and direction in our lives. As a result we look to others rather than our own spiritual compass for guidance. Here’s a simple, but very effective way to open up your crown chakra to receive energy in abundance:

  1. Place the fingertips of each of your hands on the top of your forehead when your hairline starts. Your fingertips should be touching.
  2. Now pull your fingertips away from each other as though you were opening up your crown
  3. Move your fingers 2 inches above the starting point and repeat the same movement
  4. Do this over the entire crown of your head until you reach the nape of your neck
  5. Take three deep breaths to anchor in this opening (what????)

THE PERSONAL POWER CHAKRA EXERCISE

Disruption of the flow of your life force energy occurs when a chakra is frozen or weak. It is common for individuals to have a frozen or weak third chakra. The third chakra represents your will power, confidence and sense of self. This results in a lack of confidence and will to move forward enthusiastically with towards (sic) your goals. The third chakra energy wheel is located 2 inches above the navel in the solar plexus area. These simple steps will help you activate your third chakra effectively:

  1. Rub your palms together swiftly creating static electricity (actually just warmth, from friction)
  2. Place the palm of your right hand on your solar plexus, rotating your palm in a clockwise direction while repeating: “I am powerful, I am the will of creating (sic) what I want.”
  3. Repeat these steps 2 or 3 more times”
If I want to learn more about how to heal myself using ONLY my imagination, she has an entire training course, available on an easy 90-day payment plan… Of course!
As a lady I love and respect very much likes to say : “Once again, it all comes down to money!”

If you managed to read through all the chakra exercises without falling off your chair laughing, or falling asleep, you would have noticed a couple of things:

  1. there is an assumption that you have an energy field which leaks out of various parts of your body
  2. this assumed energy field can be manipulated, and “put back” so to speak
  3. this manipulation is achieved through your imagination and rubbing your hands on various parts of your body
  4. chakra healing can’t heal bad grammar and spelling

Unfortunately, wishful thinking won’t make this fairy tale come true!

Nobody have EVER seen or discovered a chakra energy wheel. Take a human body, cut open the areas these energy wheels are supposed to reside in – you won’t find anything more exciting than bones, muscles, blood and nerves. Wave your metal scalpel over the area of the supposed chakra – do you feel any little electromagnetic tug? I thought not.

Chakra energy healing, like reiki and other therapeutic touch therapies, is nothing more than faith healing – you have to believe in it to get the benefit of the placebo effect. As long as there’s nothing really wrong with you, the placebo effect may even work. (Headaches, stress, backache, just getting old – all respond well to placebos)

However, if you have a serious illness, you should consult a doctor. You don’t have to have faith in your doctor or his medicine for it to work. That’s because real scientists, doing real research for many centuries, have by trial and replication and peer review, developed treatments for medical conditions that work, whether you believe they will or not. Human organs don’t decide for themselves whether to respond to surgery or not. Bacteria and viruses don’t decide for themselves whether to respond to antibiotics and antivirals.

Surgery, or medication, is infinitely more likely to help your heart condition than waving your hands over your chest and believing your energy field will sort out your cardiac problems!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, I will put money on it – when you’re lying on the floor, writhing in agony, shooting pains in your chest, numbness in your left arm – there is NO WAY you’re going to say “Bring me my chakra / faith healer” !

You’re going to reach for the nitroglycerine tablets and oxygen mask, and beg to be taken to the nearest hospital. In an ambulance. By a paramedic. And when you get there, you’re going to ask for a cardiologist, not a  “therapeutic touch healer” to wave their hands over you and manipulate your electromagnetic field,  or a priest to pray for the miraculous restoration of a healthy heart!

 
When it really counts, and your life is on the line, do you really think there’s an “alternative therapy” that can do better than conventional scientific medicine?
If you hold that belief, I once again refer you to What’s the Harm. Look up your favourite “alternative” treatment. Read the true stories of what reliance on that treatment has done to people.
Do you STILL believe your “therapy” is better than scientific medicine?