Monday, November 12, 2007

God is on trial

I am really surprised that I have not seen that many people discuss this yet. Republican Senator Charles Grassley began an investigation aimed at six televangelist, in regards to the way that they are obtaining and spending their income and looking into their tax exempt status. The way that most of these “ministries” structure their organizations are in control of one person or one family. As we all have suspected all along these organizations are using their tax exempt status in order to collect money from their unquestioning patrons. This is a 100% profit margin and it goes right into their pocket books.

One of my biggest complaints with these televangelist organizations is not that they are able to extract money from everyday suckers who believe in “faith healing and divine intervention” but rather that they are nothing more than a business promising services that do not have to pay taxes like the rest of us for the income that they obtain. In my mind they are no different than psychics. Regardless of your ability to prove that what they are doing is legitimate or not, if people are dumb enough to pay for a prayer or a healing then they really got what they deserved.

The televangelist that are being investigated are

Paula White-Log into her homepage and the first thing you will see is multiple links for you to send her money. “Click here to give a special Thanksgiving offering” or “Donate now Sow a seed with your online gift!” Paula does claim that 81% of the donations to her organization went into “soul winning ministries” and “outreaches.” To me this seems vague enough language to say that “we did whatever the fuck we wanted to” with it. Considering $39million in revenue the additional 19% adds up to around a measly $7.4million in her pocket. Not a bad salary for a years worth of lying.

Joyce Meyer-Go to her homepage and not only will you be bombarded with ads asking for donations but you will also be prompted to purchase her books “Battlefield of the mind, The confident woman, How to hear God, and I dare you.” Click on the financial disclosure statement and you have to browse through 67 pages of fluff before you find out that Joyce was valued at $33million and spends 82% on her ministries. (A 1% improvement) This leaves her just a bit short of $6million left over. How can anyone be expected to live on that?

Creflo Dollar-Not only is Creflo asking for donations (Shocking!) and peddling books (So original) but unlike the previous two, he does not have his financial disclosure statements readily available. Dollar is not shy about what he wants out of life though. Consider this quote from an interview on TBN on April 1st 2004. “Some people get mad when I talk about money, they say, 'Whenever I see Dollar he's talking about money!' That's because you ain't got none! I ain't talking to you!" Dollar is flashy and preaches a message of pulling yourself out of poverty. The irony is that poverty stricken people give their money to him in droves in hopes that they will see a return from the almighty. Dollars net worth is in excess of $70million currently and he is not shy about flashing it about. He owns two Roll-Royces and a Gulf Stream 3 private jet.

Eddie Long-Big Shocker here, Eddie wants your money! The interesting thing about Eddie is that he seems to be the only one of these six that has even really commented publicly on the Senate investigation into their financial and tax exempt status. Eddie believes that an investigation into financial corruption in the church is equivalent to religious persecution. “Long called the request by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) "unjust," "intrusive," and "an attack on our religious freedom and privacy rights," during a brief address to the congregation during a morning service.” I suppose Long thinks that just because they are a church that they should be off limits to investigations. What do you think?

Kenneth Copeland-Kenneth has all of the same drabble on his page as all of the others. What sets him apart is that even though he has a Cessna 550 Bravo ($3.4million), a Grumman Gulfstream II ($4.5million), a Cessna Golden Eagle, a Beech E-55 and his own airport, he still convinced his church to fork out money to help him buy a custom brand new $20million dollar state of the art custom jet. He uses this to fly to Bethlehem and get water from the well that Jesus went to. He in turn sells this “special water” in 34oz bottles for $8. This water is supposed to help you be prosperous and he has many people attesting to how they received money out of the blue after blessing themselves with his water.

Benny Hinn-This guy is probably the biggest wack job out of this group. He is known for fantastical display of faith healings and for putting his hand on the camera while asking you to touch his hand through the T.V. in order to be healed. Benny addresses the Senate's inquiry on his homepage. He pleads for separation of church and state, saying that the government should not be involved in the churches affairs by any means. I found it interesting that he is taking this route. It seems that when it comes to the topic of church and state that Christians only want the state out of the church but not the church out of the state.

These institutions are businesses. They are selling products and ideas and they are tax exempt. Why are they tax exempt? What sets them apart from a palm reader? What gives them any special rights? Why can’t any other business just adopt a faith based business culture and become tax exempt to? Who thinks the Senate inquiry is fair? Who thinks it is an infringement of their rights? I am interested to hear some different ideas on this topic. I think you all know where I stand.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Who are these people?

“People are smart!” That is what the commercial says. The audience in question watches the T.V. and says “yea, people are smart, I’m a person, and I’m smart!” The inference is that you are smart if you use the product that is being sold by this particular commercial. Of course I am reminded daily not only of how people really are not smart but also of how I fall into that category with everyone else.

Take religion for example. At some point in history there was someone who was born, as many are, except this man/woman was born smart. By smart I mean that they were a genius, had special talents, or the ability to see the world in different ways. In some way they came up with some sort of knowledge about life or how to live better. Being that they had a love or some compassion for their fellow human beings they wanted to share it with them and help enrich everybody’s life.

The problem here is that people are not smart. People internalized the new information, took it literally, and made it apply to their lives on a personal level. Passed it down as tradition. Eventually it became ingrained into the human psyche. We are so dumb that we don’t comprehend that there are those among us that are not like us. We figure that their knowledge must have come from a supernatural or alien force. Suddenly we are worshipping things we can’t see and killing others who don’t worship the same way.

We miss the point so often and it is sad. We shun those that don’t think like us. We don’t help those that don’t worship like us. We are less likely to see evil in someone who goes to the same church as us. Our judgment becomes clouded. There will always be smart people and there will always be stupid people. It will take religion to make the smart people do stupid things though.

God is a concept, an idea. The reason that there is no proof for him is because there is no substance for him. He does exist though. He exists in the thoughts and minds of millions of human beings. When they talk to him, he talks back. When they tell their friends what He said, they validate each other. Nothing can shake their faith now because they have had a “true” experience, a “real” encounter with god. The problem is that the same stupid people are controlling both sides of the conversation, so who knows what will be said.

At some point, no matter what the original intentions were, the egotistical maniacal, side of the human emotional roller coaster is going to convert to its childlike state and start demanding a list of services. The ones that are granted will be attributed to god and the ones that are not will be excused as not being in gods will. When all is said and done, the world will unfold in the same manner that it was originally going to anyways. With that being said, even if you do believe in god, you are on the same playing field as the rest of us. So please try to keep the damage to a minimum. If there were a god, I am sure he would want the same thing.