The vast majority of humans, with or without a specific religious belief, are in general normal decent people. The religious ones enjoy the festivals, and also go through the religious rituals because they are in the club, but tend not to take it too seriously. There is however a smaller subset who take culturally inherited beliefs to an entirely different level and embrace it all as a literal truth that trumps observable reality.
It is my experience that there are in general roughly two categories within this subset. Firstly there are those that have embraced it all at a very deep emotional level; it defines who they are and what they think to such an exclusive manner that it enables them to believe things that are quite frankly absurd. Item 1 below is an example. Then there are those that are grifting and use religion as a means to gain power and/or wealth. An example of somebody like this is item 2 below. There is of course an overlap, and also different degrees of commitment, none of it is binary or mutually exclusive.
The potent mix in play is human emotion and so intellectual reason based arguments will have no impact. Taming that dragon instead requires an emotional response. In this posting I’ve used mockery and humour.
Here is my personal selection of three of the most absurd that have popped up during the past week.
Item 1 – Saudi Cleric: Women Can’t Drive Since They Only Have a Quarter of a Man’s Brain
The variation of Islam that dominates in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabism. This is a sect that is rather extreme and so it is quite common for many utterly absurd things to be propagated as “truth”. It should perhaps also be no surprise to learn that about 99.9% of Muslims on the planet, including Shi’a and also Sunni clerics, regard the Wahhabies as nutters.
The big headline news item of the week is the Saudi announcement that women will finally be permitted to drive starting next year.
As you might anticipate, Wahhabie clerics are not exactly thrilled with this and so Saad al-Hijri, a cleric who is the “head of the religious edicts department in the southern province,” has been expressing a few rather bizarre thoughts …
In a video… Hijri asked what the traffic department would do it if it discovered a man with only half a brain.
“Would it give him a license or not? It would not. So how can it give it to a woman when she has only half?” he said.
“If she goes to the market she loses another half. What is left? A quarter… We demand the traffic department check because she is not suitable to drive and she has only a quarter.”
Item 2 – Jim Bakker: Eat My Giant Buckets of Food to Avoid Cannibalism in the End Times
Jim Bakker is a TV evangelist who rather famously went to jail for religious fraud. If you are a regular reader of my Weekly Weird News postings that you will know that he pops up on a regular basis. His big thing these days is to grift by basically flogging overpriced food buckets. He does this by using religion to stir up an emotional fear response that is designed to motivate people to buy this gunk.
To achieve his self-enrichment goals he comes up with some truly weird claims, hence he gets spotlighted with a “You will never guess what he has said this week” posting. I do wonder if he will ever have a week where he has not said something utterly weird. As for this week, well, it is just another week with yet another utterly bizarre claim (via RightWingWatch) …
Complaining that he has “been so lambasted in the last few years” for endlessly promoting his End Times survival products, Bakker lashed out, warning that “the Bible says a fool sees trouble coming and doesn’t prepare.”
“In perilous times, they do crazy things,” Bakker said, adding that he has “cried so much” over the destruction wrought on Houston by Hurricane Harvey.
“I saw wonderful people with everything gone,” Bakker wept. “Everything gone! You don’t understand everything gone! You don’t understand living in darkness unless you’ve lived in darkness. And they will kill each other, eat each other, steal everything from each other and that’s what the Bible warns about. I want you to be prepared.”
If faced with a choice between the stuff that is in his food buckets, or actually resorting to Cannibalism, I strongly suspect many might avoid his food buckets. I’m really not kidding, NPR bought some and actually tried it, their conclusion was this …
They taste, he says, like, “paper-mache,” “a bathroom at a bar at the end of the night in a college town,” and, simply, “one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
In other words, if you are buying and actually consuming this stuff, then for you it really will be the end times.
Item 3 – NC Church Promoted Unemployment Fraud So Members Could Keep Tithing in Full
This one comes via a posting by Hemant Mehta. The Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina is a church that has a bit of a reputation for some truly bizarre stuff …
It’s the same church that’s been accused of shaking babies to banish their demons, screaming into the ears of members to banish their demons, kidnapping and beating a gay man to eradicate his “homosexual demons,” and siphoning slave labor from its branches in Brazil.
The latest revelation is that they have pressured church members to commit fraud so that the church could maintain its flow of funds …
This bombshell report, once again from the Associated Press’ Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr, says that at least 11 members of the church were involved in the con, which lasted from 2008-2013. The fraud itself was proposed by church leader Jane Whaley (above) and resulted in the culprits raking in taxpayer money worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of six years.”
Randy Fields was one of the people pressured to participate. He went to Whaley for advice because his construction company was struggling and he wanted permission to give less money to the church each week.
To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue tithing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”
Fields said he knew the plan was not legal but went along with it because of intense pressure from Whaley, who founded the church with her husband in 1979.
The price of the refusal, Fields said, could be beatings administered by fellow church members and public shaming by Whaley.
There is some quite frankly appalling stuff that has been going on within this group for decades. The problem with social respect for belief is that often when such things happen it gets buried and is not actually dealt appropriately, and so it just carries on and on.
It’s even more disturbing when you realize some of the church’s bizarre practices (referred to as “child abuse” at times) were covered in 1995 during a segment on Inside Edition. The segment was introduced by none other than Bill O’Reilly.
What perhaps is truly the most shocking aspect here is that despite their long track record, they are still in business.