The Horrors of Men with New Testaments

Like most student newspapers, the one at the university where I’m pursuing my Master’s degree in is pretty lousy, but this editorial to kick off the start of the semester was a new low in pathetic quotient.

Ever since I can remember (at least back to the mid-1980s), several times a year a number of gentlemen show up on campus and station themselves at heavily trafficked points on campus. They then hand out a small New Testament. Typically as you approach them, they’ll try to hand you the book.

A bit annoying, especially if you’re walking across campus and you get propositioned repeatedly, but the sort of thing that’s fairly common on a college campus (along with people handing out flyers for their bands, etc.)

If you believe the student newspaper, however, these men handing out half a Bible were disrupting the entire campus,

Many students encountered problems this week when non-students were handing out bibles or other literature in an aggressive manner. These people might in fact belong to an RSO, but their motives do not seem to be in the best interest of the student body.

When I walked into the student center and man offered me a New Testament, that was nowhere near aggressive. Everywhere I walked on campus, the Bible people were very polite and as unobtrusive as one can be when attempting to hand out unsolicited materials.

And the Western Herald putting itself in the position of judging which RSOs have the proper motives is downright absurd — I don’t remember anyone electing that rag as the diviner of proper motivation for student groups (if I missed it and someone did do so, perhaps the newspaper could publish a list of all of the student groups with a 1 to 5 ranking on the purity of each group’s

Some people hand out flyers without approval, such as the solicitors for credit cards and fast food chains. Of course, they are not adhering to the guidelines set forth by the SALP and the university, but those who do have approval from the university should be held to stricter guidelines.

God forbid any spontaneous acts of speech ever occur on campus.

And then the Western Herald goes from stupidity straight into insanity (emphasis added),

Freedom of speech is important, and should not be hindered, but freedoms should be restricted when they interfere with the rights of others. These solicitors are blurring the lines of free speech and posing potential harm to students.

Students walking from class to class often have very little time to spare. The last thing on their minds should be politics, religious beliefs, or whatever else these groups are trying to sell. In some cases, these people have been so aggressive that they have put bibles in people’s hands without permission, or even put them into backpacks.

Let the Christians hand out the New Testament on street corners and outside building entrances, and the next thing you know they’ll be doing drivebys and beating down students for their iPods.

Come on. The big question is how the moron who wrote the two paragraphs above was ever accepted into a university. Someone fell asleep when handling that application.

In January 2005, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation released a survey on the First Amendment views of more than 100,000 high school students, nearly 8,000 teachers and more than 500 administrators. Disturbingly, more than 1/3rd of the students thought that the First Amendment goes too far in protecting free speech.

Apparently such attitudes become hardened and are carried with students to college, where even college newspapers tell the First Amendment to go to hell.


Editorial: On Campus Solicitors. Western Herald, September 7, 2006.

A Mike Warnke Halloween

I had to laugh a bit when I was surfing the web and came across audioblog Scar Stuff hosting Mike Warnke’s 1979 spoken world album, A Christian Perspective on Halloween.

In the 1973, Warnke co-authored a book called The Satan Seller in which he claimed that he had been a “high priest” in a satanic cult. Warnke followed that up with a number of spoken-word albums, typically recordings made from numerous live appearances that he made touring the country talking about his Satanic past and his conversion to Christianity.

In a very odd coincidence, I saw Mike Warnke perform at a 5,000 seat theater sometime in the early 1980s. At the time I was 16 or 17 and was attending a local church (I was still an atheist, but this chick I was trying to have sex with wasn’t, so . . .) I went to the show as part of some youth group affiliated with the church.

What I remember was that Warnke was very theatrical. He wasn’t good enough to be a professional actor or anything (though technically, I guess, he was), but good enough to probably scare your pants off with scary stories around a campfire.

He went on at length about all of the satantic rites that he had supposedly participated in. As he got more and more into his onstage personae, he got more and more graphic with the horrors that he had supposedly participated in. I didn’t find him at all believable, but clearly quite a few in the audience did — Warnke was, by all accounts, making quite a living off of the selling of his Satanic anecdotes.

The event was actually free (required ticket, but still free), and at the end of the event he had people pass buckets for donations.

It was a very very odd act.

What was odder still was that it wasn’t until 1992 that Cornerstone essentially ended Warnke’s career with its long expose, Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke. Warnke was a liar, of course, and since he had gotten away with his lies for almost two decades, he apparently didn’t even feel the need to bother with even the most tenuous link to reality. So Cornerstone was able to show very obvious lies.

For example, Warnke had claimed that Charles Manson was part of his cult at one point, but at a time when Manson was incarcerated. Cornerstone also interviewed more than 100 friends, relatives and acquaintances of Warnke’s who disputed key points of his accounts of his life while he was supposedly wrapped up in Satanic cults.

The Cornerstone article was devastating, putting an end to Warnke Ministries which closed just a few months after publication of the article. According to Wikipedia,

Warnke largely disappeared from the public scene. He suffered a heart attack in 1997, and in 2000 was attempting a comeback, limited to small churches around the Kentucky area. In 2002, he published Friendly Fire: A Recovery Guide for Believers Battered by Religion (ISBN 0-7684-2124-1), an unapologetic account of what he perceived as his unfair treatment by fellow Christians in the wake of the Cornerstone exposé.

The Amazon.Com product page for Friendly Fire is revealing in how Warnke apparently describes himself today,

A comic by nature and an evangelist by calling, Mike Warnke reigned for 20 years in the 1970s and 80s as the #1 Christian comedian in America, appearing before sellout crowds all across the country.

Warnke, who did release a few Christian comedy albums in the 1970s, apparently forgot to tell the audiences who fell for his Satanic spiel that the joke was on them.

Sex After Death?

Knight Ridder’s Faye Flam has an interesting survey of different religion’s views of whether people in heaven/paradise/whatever have sex.

Of course we’re all now aware Islam’s promise of many perpetual virgin-like Houri to devout adherents.

Not surprisingly, Christianity, especially in pre-Protestant forms, was not especially kind to the idea of getting it on in heaven,

Early Christians believed that after the end of the world they’d all get their bodies back in heaven, and this led to inevitably to questions about sex and marriage. On pondering resurrection of the flesh, St. Augustine decided we’d keep our sex organs for aesthetic reasons, but we wouldn’t use them.

Wow — Augustine in the anti-sex camp. That’s a real shock.

Zoroastrianism has a different but still odd view,

Zoroastrians, he said, believed there was sex in heaven, but people would wean themselves from both food and sex as they got used to being dead.

Personally, being in heaven wouldn’t be the time to start denying myself sex and food, but your mileage may vary.

Of course we atheists just sort of stop existing and wait for our atoms to scatter around the universe, so you can forget about any hot and heavy post-mortem atheist action. Damn.

Pat Robertson Damaging the Evangelical Movement? No, Really?

According to this Associated Press story, some Christian evangelicals have reached the conclusion that Pat Robertson’s regular outbursts may actually be damaging their movement. No, really?

You mean that saying federal judges are more dangerous than Al Qaeda might turn people off? Saying that Ariel Sharon’s death was God’s punishment might be a bit off-the-wall? Or that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks might alienate people?

The Associated Press quotes Brin Britt of the Religious Studies Program at Virginia Tech who offers a functional explanation for why Robertson says nutty things like that,

On the other hand, Brian Britt, director of the Religious Studies Program at Virginia Tech, said Robertson’s remarks aren’t just “off-the-wall, crazy uncle stuff” but part of a strategy that earns him headlines.

When people attack Robertson, he wins sympathy for appearing to be an underdog, Britt said.

“It reinforces an image of Christianity as a persecuted religion, a religion that is being hounded by the secularists out of the public square, rather than a dominant and hegemonic force,” Britt said.

But Robertson’s statements probably do both. On the one hand, even at his nuttiest Robertson never appears anything but extremely sincere. On the other hand, such extreme remarks do create the sympathetic feelings from hardcore followers which then reinforce Robertson’s willingness to say such things in the future (whereas, if his followers were reacting negatively then he might think before sharing his more extreme views) as well as radicalizes the base making them more likely to accept such pronouncements.

This is a common dynamic that you see, for example, with extremist animal rights organizations. Groups like PETA genuinely believe the more extreme statements, but the reason they continue to make extreme statements over time is because of the positive feedback they receive from their followers. At the same time, this also gradually pushes the range of statements that followers are willing to accept.


Pat Robertson Accused of Damaging Movement. Sonja Barisic, Associated Press, February 18, 2006.

Video Game Violence vs. the Bible

Someone sent me a link the other day to a profile of anti-videogame nutcase Jack Thompson that contained the following quote attributed to Thompson,

The Bible doesn’t promote killing innocent people. Grand Theft Auto does.

This quote appears in a number of profiles/attacks on Thompson, but I haven’t been able to track it back to its source, so I have no idea if it is accurate or not. Regardless, it is an interesting observation, and one that is completely false — at least on the Bible side of things.

Consider, for example, Psalm 137, which laments the destruction of Jerusalem and proposes an interesting form of revenge, (emphasis added)

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem;
who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Someone really needs to make a Half-Life or Unreal Tournament mod depicting that.

WCC On Arafat

The useful idiots at the World Council of Churches released a letter praising Yasser Arafat as a man of peace,

President Arafat will be remembered for bringing the Palestinian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing their national home.

We stand with the Churches of the Holy Land to honour his commitment to their place in the Palestinian society, its affairs and its future. President Arafat often made sure to mention the church as well as the mosque as core institutions of Palestinian national life. True to the customs of mutual respect among his diverse people, he celebrated Christmas with the churches of Bethlehem as circumstances permitted.

On his long road as a leader, Yasser Arafat came to the recognition that true justice embraces peace, security and hope for both Palestinians and Israelis. His path has now ended, amid the rocks and thorns of occupation, at a distance from the goal he sought. As he is laid to rest the world will see – from the location of his final resting place – how far the Palestinian people must still travel together.

As far as I can tell, the WCC has never sent such a letter to Israel on behalf of those murdered by Arafat-supported terrorists.

Of course this is is the same organization that was all but pro-Soviet in the 1970s and 1980s and ignored the persecution of Christians and freedom activists behind the Iron Curtain.

As John Leon noted of the WCC,

The persistent folly of the World Council of Churches on this issue made news in July when its former president, Konrad Raiser, apologized for not supporting freedom movements during the Cold War. At this rate, a future president of the World Council might decide he’s finally ready to apologize for ignoring severe abuses in today’s vicious dictatorships, oh, sometime maybe around 2030.

Leo notes that a study of the WCC and similar lefty Christian groups found they were all but obssessed with the United States and Israel,

The report, covering the years 2000 to 2003, found that of 197 human-rights criticisms by mainline churches and groups, 37 percent were aimed at Israel and 32 percent at the United States. Only 19 percent of these criticisms were directed at nations listed as “unfree” in Freedom House’s respected annual listing of free, partly free, and unfree nations. So Israel was twice as likely to be hammered by the mainliners as all the unfree authoritarian nations put together. The fixation on Israel left little time and inclination for these churches to notice the most dangerous violations of human rights around the world. Not one nation bordering Israel was criticized by a single mainline church or group, the IRD report says. No criticisms at all were leveled at China, Libya, Syria, or North Korea.

The other day I wrote a piece, I Wish the Terrorists Were Christians. If I were doing a rewrite, I’d call it “I Wish the Terrorists Were Christians or Jews.”


When churches head left. John Leo, October 11, 2004.

WCC grant in 1978 caused dismay even among liberals. Presbeterian Layman, October-November 1978.

World Council of Churches asked to intervene for suffering people of Sudan. Presebeterian Layman, December 15, 1998.

WCC Flunked Cold War Test: Ex-leader says council should have backed anti-Communist dissidents. Stephen Brown, August 6, 2004.