According to Christianity eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions Godʼs infinite love. Thatʼs the message weʼre brought up with, believe or die. “Thank you, forgiving Lord, for all those options.”
- Bill Hicks, Rant in E-minor, CD
As a tot I was given the usual terrifying mixed message: a) God is love; and b) If you donʼt believe how much he loves you, you will stand in the corner for eternity.
- James Lileks, “God Has Call Waiting,” Notes of a Nervous Man
Iʼm a universalist because I believe that God and time are the best teachers, and thereʼs plenty of time in eternity for everyone to learn their lessons, including Ghengiz Khan, Adolf Hitler and the makers of Jolt Cola.
- Skip Church
Any religion that teaches there is only heaven or hell is gonna be a haven for manic-depressives.
- Skip Church
When all has been considered, it seems to me to be the irresistible intuition that infinite punishment for finite sin would be unjust, and therefore wrong. We feel that even weak and erring Man would shrink from such an act. And we cannot conceive of God as acting on a lower standard of right and wrong.
- Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland), “Eternal Punishment,” Diversions and Digressions of Lewis Carroll
I read in the Gospels that Jesus forgave the men who nailed him to the cross. He even promised “this day you shall be with me in paradise” to a thief crucified next to him - a thief who addressed Jesus simply as a “man” rather than as “the son of God.”
Yet, today, this same Jesus cannot forgive my kindly old aunt, nor allow her to dwell in paradise, simply because her “beliefs” do not match Pat Robertsonʼs?
- Arthur Silver
They say that when god was in Jerusalem he forgave his murderers, but now he will not forgive an honest man for differing with him on the subject of the Trinity.
They say that God says to me, “Forgive your enemies.” I say, “I do;” but he says, “I will damn mine.” God should be consistent. If he wants me to forgive my enemies he should forgive his. I am asked to forgive enemies who can hurt me. God is only asked to forgive enemies who cannot hurt him. He certainly ought to be as generous as he asks us to be.
- Robert Ingersoll
Given lifeʼs “headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, breaks, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, retardation, deformities, ugliness, embarrassments, miscommunications, confused signals, ignorance, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, old age, accidents, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanoes,” I can not see how anyone, after theyʼre dead, deserves “eternal punishment” too.
- Skip Church
When I was a boy I heard tell of an old farmer in Vermont. He was dying. The minister was at his bedside - asked him if he was a Christian, if he was prepared to die. The old man answered that he had made no preparation, that he was not a Christian, that he had never done anything but work. The preacher said that he could give him no hope unless he had faith in Christ, and that if he had no faith his soul would certainly be lost.
The old man was not frightened. He was perfectly calm. In a weak and broken voice he said, “Mr. Preacher, I suppose you noticed my farm. My wife and I came here more than fifty years ago. We were just married. It was a forest then and the land was covered with stones. I cut down the trees, burned the logs, picked up the stones, and laid the walls. My wife spun and wove and worked every moment. We raised and educated our children - denied ourselves. During all these years my wife never had a good dress, or a decent bonnet. I never had a good suit of clothes. We lived on the plainest food. Our hands, our bodies are deformed by toil. We never had a vacation. We loved each other and the children. That is the only luxury we ever had. Now I am about to die and you ask me if I am prepared. Mr. Preacher, I have no fear of the future, no terror of any other world. There may be such a place as hell - but if there is, you never can make me believe that itʼs any worse than old Vermont.”
- Robert Ingersoll, “Why I Am An Agnostic”
An idea, which has terrified millions, claims that some of us will go to a place called Hell, where we will suffer eternal torture. This does not scare me because, when I try to imagine a Mind behind this universe, I cannot conceive that Mind, usually called “God,” as totally mad. I mean, guys, compare that “God” with the worst monsters you can think of - Adolph Hitler, Joe Stalin, that sort of guy. None of them ever inflicted more than finite pain on their victims. Even de Sade, in his sado-masochistic fantasy novels, never devised an unlimited torture. The idea that the Mind of Creation (if such exists) wants to torture some of its critters for endless infinities of infinities seems too absurd to take seriously. Such a deranged Mind could not create a mud hut, much less the exquisitely mathematical universe around us.
If such a monster-God did exist, the sane attitude would consist of practicing the Buddhist virtue of compassion. He seems very sick in His head, so donʼt give way to hatred: try to understand and forgive him. Maybe He will recover his wits some day. (I wrote “He” instead of the fashionable “He or She” because only male Gods appear to have invented Hells. I canʼt think of a single Goddess who ever created a Hell for people who displeased Her.)
- Robert Anton Wilson, “Cheerful Reflections on Death and Dying,” Gnoware, February 1999
Any infinite Being who feels it is their duty to torture me for eternity, should switch to decaf.
- Skip Church
Christians believe that the most wonderful thing that can happen to them is to go to heaven, but few of them are in a hurry to make the trip.
- Source unknown
According to the book of Revelation, Heaven is an eternal praise service; a service of compliment or flattery. God sits on his throne, attended by twenty-four harp-playing elders (Rev. 5:8) and some other dignitaries pertaining to his court, and looks out over his miles and miles of tempestuous worshippers, and smiles, and purrs, and nods his satisfaction northward, eastward, southwards; as quaint and naive a spectacle as has yet been imagined in this universe, I take it. It is easy to see that the inventor of this image of heaven did not originate the idea, but copied it from the show-ceremonies of some sorry little sovereign state up in the back settlements of the Middle East somewhere.
- Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth
Is it possible that an infinite God created this world simply to be the dwelling place of slaves and serfs? Simply for the purpose of raising orthodox Christians? That he did a few miracles to astonish a few of them? That all the evils of life are simply his punishments, and that he is finally going to turn heaven into a kind of religious museum filled with Baptist barnacles, petrified Presbyterians and Methodist mummies?
- Robert Ingersoll
Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
- Mark Twain, “Etiquette for the Afterlife: Advice to Paine”
My friend Dorothy and I spent a weekend at Heritage USA, the born-again Christian resort and amusement park created by television evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker. Dorothy and I came to scoff - but went away converted.
Unfortunately, we were converted to Satanism. Now weʼre up half the night going to witchʼs sabbaths and have to spend our free time reciting the Lordʼs Prayer backward and scouring the neighborhood for black dogs to sacrifice. Frankly, itʼs a nuisance, but if it keeps us from going to the Heritage USA part of heaven, it will be worth it.
- P. J. O’Rourke, Holidays in Hell
Have you ever been awakened early in the morning by a Jehovahʼs Witness? Maybe youʼve been accosted by a crazy street preacher with a megaphone? You turn on your TV, and thereʼs Tammy Bakker, Jerry Falwell, that Reverend Scott guy who never sleeps. Has it ever dawned on you that heaven might be a very annoying place?
My brother Mike has always been - and still is - the most annoying religious person Iʼve ever known. He thinks homosexuality is a sickness. He believes that all Jews will burn in hell. He thinks women belong in the home. Mikeʼs one of those people who has to talk to God, because nobody else can stand him.
One Thanksgiving Mike told me, “You know, Ricky, Iʼm really worried about you! Iʼm beginning to think that you might not go to heaven!” I leaned toward him very calmly and said, “Mike, I donʼt want to go to heaven. You know why? Youʼre gonna be there!”
- Rick Reynolds, Only the Truth is Funny
Remember the movie The Last Temptation of Christ? There were people outside with signs that said, “This movieʼs not real.” Come here, Sparky. No movieʼs real. And they had other signs that said, “You will not get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” I looked at these people and said, “Are you going to be there? If so, then Iʼm not going.”
- Robin Williams
The experts on Heaven disagree about which conglomeration of religious believers will qualify, but they always seem to think that they personally belong to that elite group. An eternity with people that conceited seems intolerable to me.
- Robert Anton Wilson, “Cheerful Reflections on Death and Dying,” Gnoware, February 1999
The Reverend Replied?
Reporter: What will we do in heaven for eternity? Wonʼt we get bored?
Rev. Spurgeon: Nonsense. We will joyously sing and meditate on the sufferings of Christ that made the miracle of our salvation possible. As for myself, I could sing and meditate on the wounds round Jesusʼ head for a billion years. Then focus on the wounds on his scourged back for the next billion. Then the wound in his right hand for a billion more, the wound in his left hand for a billion, the wound in his side for a billion. Then the wounds in his feet, each foot for a billion years.
Reporter: So, youʼre saying thereʼs nothing worthy of a Christianʼs time and devotion, nothing worth looking at, or singing about, for all eternity, except Jesus and his wounds?
Rev. Spurgeon: Thatʼs exactly what Iʼm saying.
Reporter: So, ah…Whatʼs hell going to be like?
- Skip Church (based on actual replies of the famous Rev. Spurgeon)
When Robert Ingersoll heard how Rev. Spurgeon planned to spend billions of years in heaven just staring at Jesusʼ wounds, Ingersoll said, “I bet he even takes great delight in reading the genealogies of the Old Testament.”
- The Best of Robert Ingersoll, Robert E. Greeley, Ed.
Isnʼt spending an eternity in heaven an anti-climactic event according to Christianity? I mean, you pull off a narrow Houdini-like escape from hell when? When youʼre still on the earth, thatʼs when. So earth is where the dangers and thrills lay. When youʼre in heaven itʼs smoooooth sailing like taking an eternal drag on a cigarette after the action in bed is over.
- Skip Church
The last stop on my guided tour of heaven by Saint Peter was a cloud filled with people singing hymns loudly with bags over their heads.
“Make sure to keep quiet as we pass this cloud,” Peter said, “Those are the born-again Christians, and they think theyʼre the only ones up here.”
- Source unknown
Heaven is For “Snuff Film” Lovers?
For centuries, Christians believed that the heavenly few would see and even rejoice at the sight of hellʼs multitude being eternally tortured. Augustine, Tertullian, Thomas Aquinas, and Jonathan Edwards are just a few of the towering Christians in ages past who argued that such a belief was both Scriptural and just:
They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness? The saints? knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted?with the eternal sufferings of the lost.
[The City of God, Book 20, Chapter 22, “What is Meant by the Good Going Out to See the Punishment of the Wicked” & Book 22, Chapter 30, “Of the Eternal Felicity of the City of God, and of the Perpetual Sabbath”]
What a spectacle?when the world?and its many products, shall be consumed in one great flame! How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? What my derision? Which sight gives me joy??As I see?illustrious monarchs? groaning in the lowest darkness, Philosophers?as fire consumes them! Poets trembling before the judgment-seat of? Christ! I shall hear the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; view play-actors?in the dissolving flame; behold wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows?What inquisitor or priest in his munificence will bestow on you the favor of seeing and exulting in such things as these? Yet even now we in a measure have them by faith in the picturings of imagination. [De Spectaculis, Chapter XXX]
In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned?So that they may be urged the more to praise God?The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens? to the damned. [Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question XCIV, “Of the Relations of the Saints Towards the Damned,” First Article, “Whether the Blessed in Heaven Will See the Sufferings of the Damned?”]
The sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever?Can the believing father in Heaven be happy with his unbelieving children in Hell? I tell you, yea! Such will be his sense of justice that it will increase rather than diminish his bliss. [“The Eternity of Hell Torments” (Sermon), April 1739 & Discourses on Various Important Subjects, 1738]
During Americaʼs “Great Awakening” the popular hymn writer, Isaac Watts (1674-1748), even set Christiansʼ feet to tapping with this crisp little verse:
What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell.
This “abominable fancy” was based on various Bible verses:
The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance.
- Psalm 58:10
Let the wicked perish at the presence of God?But let the righteous?rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
- Psalm 68:2-3,22-23
- Isaiah 30:31-33 [Assyria is depicted as being slain as a human sacrifice by the Lord; this act being accompanied by festival songs, gladness of heart, the sound of the flute, tambourines and lyres]
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me.
- Isaiah 66:24
- Luke 16 [a man suffering in “Hades” sees another man luxuriating in “Abrahamʼs bosom,” and vice versa]
Ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
- Luke 13:28
They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment shall ascend up forever and ever?Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her? And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
- Revelation 14:9-11; 18:20, 19:3
Having such “inspired” verses behind it, this teaching did not grow out of favor with orthodox Christian theologians until the age of the Enlightenment when, for instance, Thomas Burnet deflated it with a prick of irony:
What a theater of providence this is: by far the greatest part of the human race burning in flames forever and ever. Oh what a spectacle on the stage, worthy of an audience of God and angels! And then to delight the ear, while this unhappy crowd fills heaven and earth with wailing and howling, you have a truly divine harmony. [De Statu Mortuorum & Resurgentium Tractatus, 1720]
- Skip Church
Witches, Divination, and Magic
We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our New England forefathers. For if it hadnʼt been for their amazing wisdom and foresight over two hundred years ago, weʼd be up to our asses in witches.
- Cecil Wyche & Tom Weisel
It was believed that people by the aid of the Devil could assume any shape they wished. Witches and wizards were changed into wolves, dogs, cats and serpents. Within two years, between 1598 and 1600, in once district of France, the district of Jura, more than six hundred men and women were tried and convicted before one judge of having changed themselves into wolves, and all were put to death. This is only one instance. There were thousands.
- Robert Ingersoll, “The Devil”
In three centuries (1450 to 1750) more than 100,000 persons, the overwhelming majority of them being women, were tried for the crime of witchcraft, and more than half were executed. The prosecutions by church and governmental authorities often involved the use of torture, and constitute one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in the history of the West.
- Witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe, Vol. 3, Articles on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology, ed., Brian P. Levack
For centuries the Catholic church proclaimed the reality of the crime of “witchcraft,” backed by the Biblical command, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Even the Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, said about witches, “I would burn them all!” John Calvin personally prosecuted twenty witches in one year who were executed in the city of Geneva for having “sent the plague.”
A few centuries later, after the smoke cleared, the famed Christian evangelist, John Wesley, lamented, “The giving up of witchcraft is in effect the giving up of the Bible.” (The Journal of John Wesley, 1766-1768)
My how times change.
- Skip Church
The witch text in the Bible remains; the practice of executing them changed. The slavery text in the Bible remains; the practice changed. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the Biblical texts that authorized them remain.
Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of Biblical texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.
- Mark Twain, “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice”
If a Witch Curses your Enemies itʼs Witchcraft. If God Curses your Enemies, isnʼt that Godcraft?
In 1994 the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, a Washington D.C.-based prayer group, produced a list of twenty-five Democratic incumbents, and urged prayer partners to petition God to bring evil upon the people on that list. “Donʼt hesitate to pray imprecatory Psalms over them,” wrote one of the groupʼs founders, Harry Valentine, in the groupʼs newsletter. Imprecatory means to “call down evil upon.” Such Psalms include: “Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.” (Ps. 109:8,9) “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into Sheol.” (Ps. 55:15)
“The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his own feet in the blood of the wicked.” (Ps. 58:10) (How is this different from sticking pins in voodoo dolls, or whipping up a witchʼs brew and mumbling curses? I guess itʼs all right for Christians to “curse” people so long as they use a “Biblically sound” method. - Skip)
- Skipp Porteous, “Election ʻ94 Observations,” Free Inquiry, Winter 1994/95
When the Bible Says “No Diviniation” it means? “Some Divination.”
According to Deuteronomy 18:10,12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who…uses divination…For whoever does such things is detestable to the Lord.” However…
Joseph Practiced the Art of Divination known as Lecanomancy
The Hebrew patriarch, Joseph, practiced the ancient magical art of cup-divination (lecanomancy):
Is not this [cup] it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth??And Joseph said unto them, What deed is this that ye have done? wot ye not that such a man as I can certainly divine? - Gen. 44:5,15
By means of cup-divination, a person could supposedly foretell the future and find lost objects. Neither was Joseph condemned in the Bible for being a cup-diviner. Go figure.
- Skip Church
Hebrews and Christians Practiced the Art of Divination known as Cleromancy
The ancient Hebrews and early Christians cast lots (cleromancy) to divine Godʼs will, kind of like tossing Chinese I Ching sticks haphazardly then “reading” the result. Or, as it says in the Bible, “The lot is cast into the lap; but its decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33) “The lot puts an end to contentions, and decides between the mighty.” (Prov. 18:18) Numerous examples of this magical practice of divining Godʼs will can be found in the Bible:
The tribes of Israel divided the “promised land” by “casting lots.” (Num. 26:52-56; 33:54; 36:1-2; Joshua 13:6; 14:1-2; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1-2,14-17; 18:6-11; chapts. 19,21,22,23; Isa. 34:17; Ezk. 45:1; 47:22; 48:29)
Hebrew kings were chosen and tactical decisions in battle were decided by “lot.” (1 Sam. 10:20-23; 14:41-42; Judges 20:9) Also chosen by “lot” were “governors” for each “ward,” and for the house of God. (1 Chron. 24:5-7,31; 25:8-9; 26:14-16)
People were chosen to receive special favors by “lot” (Lev. 16:8-10; Mic. 2:5; Neh. 10:34; 11:1)
The guilt of people was judged and confirmed by casting lots. (Josh. 7:13-18 - the Hebrew word ‘lakad’ translated ‘taken,’ means ‘chosen by lot;’ Jonah 1:7)
And when the first Christians had to choose between two candidates to take Judasʼ place among the twelve apostles, they did it, you guessed it, by “lot.” (Acts 1:23-26)
Based on the strength of so many Bible verses, the Puritans took the “casting of lots” as seriously as they took the hanging of witches. They outlawed all “dice” play in games or gambling because the casting of dies or lots should be reserved only for divining Godʼs will. And yet there isnʼt a church today that decides how its money will be spent, or which preacher to hire, or who is guilty of crimes against the church, based on “casting lots.” Write me if you hear of one. I guess todayʼs believers donʼt have as strong a faith in Yahwehʼs ability to communicate via cleromancy.
- Skip Church
Not Only Does the Hebrew Lord Play Dice, but he also Changes His Mind, as any All-Knowing Being will do. ?Not!
The Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
- 1 Sam. 15:35 (But the Lordʼs “dice" had chosen Saul to be king in the first place!)
And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
- Gen. 6:6 (see also Deut. 32:36 & Ps. 135:14)
And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
- Ex. 32:14
And the Lord repented of the evil, that he had said he would do unto them; and he did it not.
- Jonah 3:10
I [the Lord] am weary of repenting.
- Jer. 15:6
More “Godly” Divination: the Urim and Thummim
Another magical way to divine Godʼs will was via the “Urim and Thummim.” Those two objects were connected with the breastplate worn by the high priest (Ex. 28:30) but it is not known what the Urim and Thummim were. Were they gems kept in a pouch worn on the high priestʼs chest? Were they engraved with symbols that reflected a divine “yes” and a divine “no?” Were they like the ancient Assyrian “Tablets of Destiny” that were tossed to determine the will of ancient Near Eastern gods like Marduk or Bel? We donʼt know. But such prominent figures as Aaron (Ex. 28:30) and Joshua (Num. 27:21), and the Hebrew tribe of priests, the Levites (Deut. 28:8), used the Urim and Thummim to divine Godʼs will.
King Saul consulted the “Urim” but received “no answer.” (1 Sam. 28:6) Maybe the Urim and Thummim were the two most sacred “lots” of Israel, and after you tossed both of them, if one landed on its “yes” side, but the other landed on its “no” side, it was interpreted as God leaving the receiver off the hook?
- Skip Church
Hereʼs Christʼs Spit in Yer Eye!
Magical spit was an ancient remedy of folk medicine and was widely known for its healing virtues. Jesus used it on several occasions to cure the blind and those with impediments of speech (Mark 7:31-37; 8:22-26; John 9:6). Hence Jesusʼ miracles appeared to his contemporaries to be those of a typical ancient wonder worker.
- A. J. Mattill, Jr., The Seven Mighty Blows to Traditional Beliefs (enlarged edition)
Behold the Bird of God, who Takes Away the Mildew, Mold, and Leprosy of the World!
Weʼve all heard the story of the “scapegoat,” which, according to the Hebrew Bible, was an animal that God told the priest to transfer the sins of the people onto, then send out into the wilderness with all of their sins. (Lev. 16:20-22) But we forget about the lowly scape-bird, an animal that God told the priest to transfer “uncleanness” to, then send flying into the sky. (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What kinds of “uncleanness” does the scape-bird carry away with it? Would you believe leprosy, mold and mildew?
To the ancient mind “mold on clothing or on leather goods, moldy growths or algae in or on the walls of houses, and certain forms of skin diseases were all regarded as manifestations of that dreaded disease, leprosy! (The same Hebrew word applies to all despite the tendency of modern translations to use such words as ‘mold’ or ‘mildew’ in the cases of leather goods and houses.) Might not that greenish growth in the wall of your house or on poorly stored clothing and leather goods be just another manifestation of that dreaded skin disease? Some of the ‘inspired’ authors of the Bible thought so! Consequently, such matters are treated as extremely important and extreme remedies are required by Godʼs law.”
- Dave Matson, “Godʼs Ignorance Concerning Leprosy,” Commonsense Versus the Bible
But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
- Mark Twain, Autobiography
I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue Bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but the evidence for the prosecution, and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind this is irregular. It is un-English. It is un-American; it is French.
- Mark Twain
We may not pay him reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. Not only that, but Satan hasnʼt a single salaried helper, while the Opposition employs a million.
- Mark Twain
Another “Satan seller” is Dr. Rebecca Brown. Her tales of “Satanic cult abuse” (He Came To Set The Captives Free) were published by Jack Chick, who specializes in publishing mini-comic books portraying demons and hellfire. “Dr. Rebecca Brown” was originally “an Indiana physician named Ruth Bailey, who had her license removed by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana for a number of reasons. Among the boardʼs seventeen findings are: Bailey knowingly misdiagnosed serious illnesses, including brain tumors and leukemia, as ‘caused by demons, devils, and other evil spirits;’ she told her patients that doctors at Ball Memorial Hospital and St. Johnʼs Medical Center were ‘demons, devils, and other evil spirits’ themselves; and she falsified patient charts and hospital records. The boardʼs report states: ‘Dr. Bailey also addicted numerous patients to controlled substances which required them to suffer withdrawal and undergo detoxification, and that she self-medicated herself with non-therapeutic amounts of Demerol which she injected on an hourly basis.’ A psychiatrist appointed by the board to diagnose Bailey described her as ‘suffering from acute personality disorders including demonic delusions and/or paranoid schizophrenia.’ Refusing to appear before the board, Bailey moved to California, changed her name to Rebecca Brown, and began working with Jack Chick.” (David Alexander, “Giving the Devil More Than His Due: For Occult Crime ‘Experts’ and the Media, Anti-Satanist Hysteria Has Become A Growth Industry,” The Humanist, March/April 1990) Jack Chick recently stopped publishing Brownʼs books, “We used to publish her books. Then the Lord told us he didnʼt want us to put ʻem out anymore.” (Jack Chick, speaking to Dwayne Walker in 1997)
Even the editors of Christianity Today praised a book in which well-documented research showed that the problem with the “Satanic panic” of the 1980s was that “rumor was prevailing over truth, and people, particularly Christians, are too believing.” The Christian book reviewer cited a case in a megachurch in Chicago where one man was “disfellowshipped” because a female in the congregation “freaked out” whenever she saw him on Sunday mornings, claiming he was a “Satanic cult leader” who had “ritually abused her.” “The man was not allowed to face his accuser, nor would they discuss with the man any specific dates or events of alleged crimes. Though the man denied the allegations, and the elders and pastor of the church saw no evidence of sin in the manʼs life, they felt compelled to protect the accuser.” The review continued, “To date there has been no investigation that has substantiated the claims of alleged Satanic abuse survivors. Recovered ‘memories’ are the only evidence any specialist will offer…Well-meaning but uncritical therapists have validated, if not helped to construct, vile fantasies that foment a terror of Satan rather than confidence in God…In periods of rising concern over actual child abuse and sexual immorality the historical tendency has been to find scapegoats for social ills. A despised segment of society is depicted as the perpetrator of a villainous conspiracy. Romans accused the early Christians of wearing black robes, secretly meeting in caves, and performing animal and baby mutilation. In the Middle Ages, the scapegoat was the Jews. In America of the 1830s and 40s, kidnapping and murder of children were said to be the work of the Catholics. A best-selling book of the time, The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, chronicled the atrocities committed by priests and nuns at a particular convent. That account sparked myriad copycat claims by other young women.”
(Susan Bergman, “Rumors from Hell,” Christianity Today, Vol. 38, No. 3, March, 1994 - a review of Jeffrey S. Victorʼs, Satanic Panic)
The modern “Satanic cult hysteria” only began in 1981 with the publication of the best-seller, Michelle Remembers. “Prior to 1981 there were no reports of ‘satanic-cult torture and murder.’ We have none on record, and I challenge you to find any in the psychiatric or scientific literature.” So says F.B.I. Special Agent Kenneth Lanning (who has a masterʼs degree in behavioral science and whose published work on the sexual victimization of children is well-known in the law-enforcement and psychology fields). (Interestingly enough, the article featuring Lanningʼs statement appeared in Penthouse magazine, while the statements directly preceding Lanningʼs appeared in Christianity Today. Itʼs nice to know that Christians and secularists, can agree on some matters!)
There are indeed practicing “Satanists” in America, but the F.B.I. has been studying ritual criminal behavior for many years and has not found evidence of any organized “satanic menace.” According to Lanning, “I started out believing this stuff [about ritual murders by organized satanic-cults]. I mean, I had been dealing with bizarre crimes for many years and I knew from experience that almost anything is possible…But I canʼt find one documented case [of satanic-cult victimization], and Iʼve been looking for seven years or more. I personally have investigated some 300 cases - and there is not a shred of evidence of a crime.” He mentioned how psychiatric patients [and/or people who undergo hypnosis to “recover memories”] are the ones claiming such crimes took place, but when the alleged crime scene is investigated there is never a trace of blood or bone, though the F.B.I. has many means to detect even the faintest traces of splashed blood, and whole lawns and farm fields have been dug up in search of bones and bone fragments though none were found.
Satan-mongers inflate statistics, claiming that “according to the F.B.I., two million children are missing each year.” “Itʼs wrong,” said Lanning. The Justice Department (Juvenile Justice Bulletin, January 1989) reported that between 52 and 58 children were kidnapped and murdered by non-family members in 1988. The “Cult Crime Network” claims that “50,000 human sacrifices” are being performed each year by “satanic cults.” But there are only 20,000 murders, total in the U.S. each year, and that figure accounts for all the gang, drug, domestic, and “regular” murders in the country.
People do commit strange crimes. Some may even be committing human sacrifice in the name of Satan. But there is absolutely no evidence of any widespread, organized satanic movement. At one conference on Satanism in America in 1989 the same photo of a boy whose death was “linked to Satanism” was dragged out by just about everyone interviewed by a reporter covering the conference, implying that was the one and only corpse in the U.S. that could be traced to satanic-cult activity, and it was the result of an isolated incident that could not be connected in any way with an organized group.
As Lanning sums things up, “The fact is that more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus, and Muhammad than has ever been committed in the name of Satan.”
- Skip Church
The Father of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther, saw “Satan” lurking everywhere. (The following quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from Table Talk, a volume in The Collected Works of Martin Luther):
Snakes and monkeys are subjected to the demon more than other animals. Satan lives in them and possesses them. He uses them to deceive men and to injure them.
In my country, upon a mountain called Polterberg, there is a pool. If one throws a stone into it, instantly a storm arises and the whole surrounding countryside is overwhelmed by it. This lake is full of demons; Satan holds them captive there.
Demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places ready to hurt and prejudice people; some are also in thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds.
How often have not the demons called “Nix,” drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, With fearful consequences.
I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child which had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil. He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children.
A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon. And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him.
Our bodies are always exposed to the attacks of Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but Devilʼs spells.
As for the demented, I hold it certain that all beings deprived of reason are thus afflicted only by the Devil.
Satan produces all the maladies which afflict mankind for he is the prince of death.
(So, who needs modern medicine, sanitation, health and city planning practices? We just need more exorcists to heal “all the maladies which afflict mankind.” Of course, even the “apple of Godʼs eye, the ancient Hebrews, did not enjoy unparalleled good health to judge by the lengthy number of illnesses mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy. - Skip)
When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children. (Luther, Commentary on Galatians)
I would have no compassion on a witch; I would burn them all. (Luther, Table Talk)
The heathen writes that the Comet may arise from natural causes; but God creates not one that does not foretoken a sure calamity. (Luther, Advent Sermon)
(For further quotations like those above, see Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil)
Art, philosophy, literature, the very psychology of Western man, all suffered by the victory of the bishops.
- John Holland Smith, The Death of Classical Paganism
The Christian zealots for conversion took to the streets or criss-crossed the countryside, destroying no doubt more of the architectural and artistic treasure of their world than any passing barbarians thereafter.
- Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire
Institutions of higher learning had been largely destroyed. The [Christian] emperorsʼ attacks had centered on the chief of them, Athens and Alexandria, in the late fourth century and were turned against them again toward the end of the fifth and in 529.
As to the initiators of the persecution, the [Christian] emperors themselves, a steady decline in their level of cultivation has been noticed. Thus books and philosophy were bound to fade from sight.
After Constantine there existed an empire-wide instrument of education: the church. What bishops, even emperors, made plain, and what could be heard in broader terms from every pulpit, was an agreed upon teaching. Every witness, every listener should know the great danger to his soul in Platoʼs books, in Aristotleʼs, in any of the philosophical corpus handed down from the past. The same danger threatened anyone using his mind according to their manner, with analytical intent, ranging widely for the materials of understanding, and independent of divine imparted teachings.
Another factor which arose specifically out of the ongoing conversion of the empire was the doctrine of demonic causation. The belief in the operation of maleficent forces on a large scale had to await Christianity; and it was of course Christianity which was to form the medieval and Byzantine world.
Satanic agents were to be seen as the cause not only of wars and rebellions, persecution and heresy, storms at sea and earthquakes on land, but of a host of minor or major personal afflictions. So, in consequence, Christians were forever crossing themselves, whatever new action they set about, and painted crosses on their foreheads too, responding to their leadersʼ urging them to do so. It would protect them against all evil.
- Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries
Lightning: A Heretic Makes a Shocking Discovery
Christians used to believe that thunder storms and lightning bolts were directed by God to “discipline his servants and teach us important lessons,” or they were directed by Satan (“the Prince of the Power of the Air”) and his demons, or they were called forth by “witches” to “try and destroy Godʼs holy sanctuaries and ministers.” Such “sacred” explanations were vouched for by leading Christian authorities. For instance, the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is a dogma of faith that demons can produce winds, storms, and rains of fire (lightning) from heaven.” While, Pope Gregory XIII advocated “exorcising the demons” who “do stir up the clouds.” The Protestant theologian, Martin Luther supported the superstition even more zealously, asserting at times his belief that the winds themselves are only good or evil spirits, and declaring that a stone thrown into a certain pond in his native region would cause a dreadful storm because of the devils kept prisoners there.
Numerous pious authors also testified how well the old “sacred” remedies succeeded in protecting churches and cathedrals from the ravages of lightning strikes and storms. Such “sacred” remedies included ringing church-bells and reciting special prayers. Hence, when Benjamin Franklin invented his “lightning rod” in 1752, most Christians were far from eager to place a “rod of iron” designed by an “arch-heretic” at the top of their churches near the holy cross of Christ. Neither did they desire to abandon the ancient Christian game of praising God (or blaming the devil), for lightning strikes and storms.
In America the earthquake of 1755 was widely ascribed, especially in Massachusetts, to Franklinʼs rod. The Rev. Thomas Prince, pastor of the Old South Church, published a sermon on the subject, and in the appendix expressed the opinion that the frequency of earthquakes may be due to the erection of “iron points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin.” He goes on to argue that “in Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh! There is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”
Three years later, John Adams, speaking of a conversation with a Boston physician, says, “He began to go on about the presumption of erecting iron rods to draw the lightning from the clouds. He talked of presuming upon God, as Peter, attempted to walk upon the water, and of attempting to control the artillery of heaven.”
As late as 1770 many religious Americans still felt that, since thunder and lightning were tokens of the Divine displeasure, it was impiety to prevent their doing their full work. It took a few decades for the devout to abandon their religious prejudices regarding the use of the lightning rod, but eventually it was demonstrated to all but the most dense that both the “vengeance of God” and the “Prince of the Power of the Air” were forced to retreat before the lightning-rod of a heretic.
- A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology & Skip Church
Churches in Germany shunned Franklinʼs new invention for three decades, during which time some 400 church towers were damaged by lightning and 120 bell ringers killed. In one church a bolt of lightning struck the tower and melted the bell, electrocuted the priest, deprived a parishioner of her sensibilities and destroyed a painting of the Savior. Church towers, being the highest structures in a village, are commonly struck by lightning, while brothels and saloons next door escape untouched.
- William Deitz, Creation/Evolution Satiricon
It was long before the churches consented to be protected by the heretical tool. The tower of St. Markʼs in Venice had at the time of Franklinʼs invention been struck again and again by lightning, sometimes with such disastrous effects that it had been almost destroyed. The Almighty, or alternatively the Powers of Darkness, seemed to have singled it out for special punishment, in spite of the angel that adorned its summit, the consecrated bells which were repeatedly rung to drive away the thunder, the holy relics in the cathedral nearby and the processions of the Virgin and the patron saint. The tower was struck again in two successive summers, whereupon the authorities succumbed and a lightning rod was erected. The edifice has never been damaged by lightning since, but God alone has received the thanks of a grateful people. In Austria the church of Rosenberg was struck so frequently and with such loss of life that the peasants feared to attend services. Three times the spire had to be rebuilt, until the devil was exorcised by an iron rod. Such was also the history of St. Brideʼs and St. Paulʼs in London, the cathedrals of Sienna and Strasburg and of other churches throughout Europe and America; they were protected only after it was evident that not to do so was to lay them open to repeated injury.
- Homer W. Smith, Man and His Gods (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1952)
The case which did the most to convert the Italian theologians to the scientific view of lightning and the use of the lightning rod was that of the church of San Nazaro, at Brescia. The Republic of Venice had stored in the vaults of this church over two hundred thousand pounds of gunpowder. In 1767, seventeen years after Franklinʼs discovery, no rod having been placed upon it, it was struck by lightning, the powder in the vaults was exploded, one sixth of the entire city destroyed, and over three thousand lives were lost.
Examples like that had their effect. The formulas for conjuring off storms, for consecrating bells to ward off lightning and tempests, and for putting to flight the powers of the air, were still allowed to stand in the liturgies; but the lightning-rod, the barometer, and the thermometer, carried the day.
- A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology & Skip Church
Ben Franklinʼs life-saving invention, the lightning rod, was condemned by many Christians as an insult to Almighty God, or at least, to his aim. Because the Bible says God “sends forth lightnings…He covers His hands with the lightning. And commands it to strike the mark. Its noise declares His presence?Under the whole heaven He lets it loose, And His lightning to the ends of the earth…Whether for correction, or for His world, Or for loving kindness, He causes it to happen.”
[Job 36:27-33 & 37:1-13 & 38:35]
And Ben Franklin sang, “Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya. Canʼt hit me!”
- Skip Church
The Heretical Wisdom of the Inventor of the Lightning Rod
Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
Original sin is as ridiculous as imputed righteousness.
As to Jesus, I have some doubt as to his divinity.
- Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Benjamin Franklin: His Wit, Wisdom, and Women by Seymour Stanton Block