On the Separation of the State from the Christian Church and the Case against Christianity and Other Improper Religions
Table of Contents
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees, among other things, that "Congress shall make no law respecting [regarding, concerning, with respect to] an establishment of religion ..." This, together with the expressed belief of the founding fathers, has provided the foundation of what has come to be known as The Doctrine of Separation of Church and State. This doctrine has been interpreted to mean that the public affairs of the people of the United States shall not be imposed upon by the particular beliefs of any religion no matter how widespread its acceptance. Even if the Doctrine were not supported by the Constitution, we would have to respect it because without separation of church and state there would be no possibility of peaceful coexistence of separate religions, cultures, or lifestyles within the United States. The Doctrine means much more than toleration of various religions; it means that individuals must be spared any impingement on their lives by any religious beliefs whatsoever, if that is what they desire. Adherence to religious belief has been shown to be entirely superfluous to the socialization (rendering fit for human companionship) of humanity, so there is no reason why people should be subjected to it against their will.
But, holders of religious doctrine often consider their convictions to be absolute truth. They insist on repressing free thought and variation in belief, thus corroborating the biblical lesson that some things never change. Many religionists wish to have public affairs conducted in accordance with what they perceive to be absolute principles. Fanatical Christians want to make the morality taught in Christian churches the law of the land. The more militant sects claim that the statement "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" does not prohibit using the Bible as a basis for law and does not prohibit the intrusion of prayer, or the assumption that the nature of God is known, into schools or other public places. Such claims should be intolerable to all reasonable people and such tendencies should be discouraged by truly religious people who want to live in peace and go forward in a practical way with the business of making the words "liberty and justice for all" more than an empty promise.
Instead, Christian ministers, both the regular clergy and the reprehensible televangelists, continue to support a corrupt and materialistic society. The televangelists were the motivation for this paper. In addition to pushing their political ideas on TV, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of fleecing their flocks, as we have seen. It seems to me that this could be prevented by appealing to the laws against false advertising, provided, of course, that we can make a good case that their self-advertising is indeed false.
Christian fundamentalists are unwilling to present reasoned arguments, such as might be acceptable in a court of law, for the policies they wish to impose upon all of society. Rather they are inclined to put forth as absolute proof appeals to scriptures or to personal divine supernatural revelation. If they were to do this in any context save religion, they would be judged insane and the matter would end there. Instead, all efforts to dissuade them from their authoritarian dogmas by reasoning or by appeals to social utility fail. Thus, what begins as an insistence on absolute morality ends up as the most egregious violation of morality conceivable. The only hope is that all parties will bow to the sovereign Doctrine of Separation of Church and State and follow their private moral principles privately.
There is no reason why people cannot discuss their private beliefs publicly, so long as they do not try to impose them on others. If one person has access to broadcast or cable television, which are, after all, public trusts, to express his private beliefs, then the rest of us must have the same access, even if we do not have the money to pay for it. This is the Principle of Equal Time (related to what was known as the Fairness Doctrine), without which the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State is endangered. Television is an extremely powerful force for persuasion. Lately, the ministers of some religious sects, especially the fundamentalist off-shoots of Christianity, have been using the media to convert members of the general public to their particular faiths. Whether or not they recommend public action based on their beliefs or not, but particularly if they do recommend public action based on their beliefs, which is usually the case, this represents a clear and present danger to all people who reject personal revelation as a succedaneum for reasoning and thought. Thus, without an effective presence on television to counteract this mischief, the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State is compromised.
Hypocritically, the religious broadcasters stand on their First Amendment rights while they wish to deny us ours. "If you think Pat Robertson is obscene," they tell us, "change to another station." But, if we wish to broadcast erotic art on our own channel, they will deny us the right to do so, as it violates their religious principles even if it is congruent with ours. Pat Robertson thinks that the dispute as to which is obscene, Pat Robertson or erotic art, falls under the jurisdiction of the Christian church, which begs the question. Since what is obscene depends on personal taste, the question of obscenity may not be introduced into public policy, nor may we abridge First Amendment rights simply because we are offended by someone or something. Our objection to the televangelists is based on the indefensible statements they make to promote their commercial enterprises and on the disproportionate share of the available airtime they usurp to promote their religions.
Actually, an entire channel devoted to the spread of a single religion is rather far from free speech. No one is allowed to express an opinion on that channel unless it corresponds to the beliefs of those who own the channel. Of course, this is no different from the way things work with newspapers. "Freedom of the press applies to those who own the presses." The founding fathers were thinking about small printing presses rather than modern mass media when they framed the Constitution. We need an extension of the doctrine of freedom of speech to provide access to the media for anyone who wants it.
Religionists who believe that they have the final answer to all spiritual questions and that their beliefs, which are the absolute and final truth, should be applied to everyone are a threat to the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State. I believe that all religious authoritarians represent a danger to the spiritual progress of mankind and to the continued existence of the human race; but, within the United States, only the Christians are sufficiently numerous to pose a serious threat at the present time. (One is still relatively safe from the menace of Islam within the boundaries of the United States, unless one happens to be a well-known author who has displeased the leaders of that faith.) Since most Christian churches claim to be infallible, it is expedient and proper to point out the defects of Christian doctrine. We shall attempt to build a case against Christianity that is good enough to discredit televangelists in a hypothetical court of law.
In one way or another television preachers expect monetary compensation from their viewers. Whether the money is used to support themselves and their employees or partners or it is used to expand their ministries is irrelevant. Undoubtedly some ministers measure their worldly success by the size of their ministries, but the important thing is that they are engaged in raising money just like any other commercial venture. Sometimes they sell products, such as books or audio- or videotapes or courses of instruction, for which they require payment in advance. Sometimes they promise spiritual or material rewards, even financial rewards (despite the advice of Jesus not to be concerned about such things), for which a contribution in advance is mandatory. In many cases they attempt to convert the audience to Christianity, after which donations to the church are obligatory or at least are presumed to place the believer in a better position to receive the rewards of faith, which are supposed to include miraculous healings, a special relationship with God, and direct access to ultimate knowledge. The members of the audience who are already "saved" are continually reminded of their duty to sponsor evangelism; so, in one way or the other, putting one's trust in a television preacher is going to have financial implications.
If we can show that any of these promised rewards will not be delivered or cannot be delivered by those who accept compensation for delivering them, we will have shown that the ministry is in breach of oral contract. The ministers will have been shown to be in violation of their contractual obligations to their clients, ethically if not legally, and they will have been shown to be guilty of false advertising. This is an easy way to discredit people who are dangerous mainly because of the other items on their agenda, namely, their politics, their philosophies, and their world views. In a subsequent section of this paper we show that the probability of the fundamental mainstream Christian doctrine being true is very small, but we cannot prove it is false with certainty. (All attempts to prove Christian doctrine is true turn out to be based on circular reasoning, but disqualifying the proof that the doctrine is true does not constitute a proof that the doctrine is false.)
In an ordinary court of law people are convicted of crimes and cases are won or lost on the basis of evidence that constitutes much less certain proof than we will be able to establish; but, to a great extent, commercial Christianity is exempt from ordinary civil and criminal prosecution. This in itself is a violation of the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State and we can agitate to have it changed; but, in the meantime, our best hope is to uncover internal inconsistencies and inconsistencies with the philosophy of Jesus in the commercial products of the television ministries, among which are their sermons, books, and tapes, and their advice to their viewers. Also, we shall point out inconsistencies with accepted criteria for religious revelation. This should convict them in the court of public opinion at least.
Lately, Pat Robertson, who was the prime motivation for this paper, has begun to sell a home course of study called "Living by the Book" for the modest price of only $1497.50, payable in monthly installments, but without a finance charge. The course is guaranteed, but 30 days after the customer receives the first of 20 courses the guarantee expires. The customer who accepts the installment plan signs an agreement that permits Robertson's organization to bring the full force of the law down upon the victim if he or she is even one day late on one of 49 payments. The agreement reads in part, "If I don't pay on time, all my payments may become due at once and, without notifying me, you may take action to collect from me the total amount I owe, unless I cure such default within 10 days after it occurs. You shall also be entitled to discontinue sending any further course materials, but I will remain liable for full payment. I will pay your court costs and reasonable attorney fees, if attorney is not your salaried employee." Is it consistent with the advice of Jesus to "forgive our debtors" to ask a coreligionist to sign such a statement? Robertson might know how to live by the Book, but, clearly, he doesn't do it.
In order for this sale not to amount to consumer fraud, two things must be true: (1) the Bible must be the word of God and (2) Pat Robertson and associates must know how to interpret the Bible. If either of these tacit claims turn out to be false, Pat Robertson is guilty of consumer fraud, but to get him convicted we have to show intent to defraud and we cannot prove intent unless we get a confession either surreptitiously or by catching him in a moment of weakness or contrition. We don't expect contrition except in the unlikely event that Robertson has a genuine religious experience or something like one. In this paper I hope to show that both (1) and (2) above are almost undoubtedly false.
Now, Robertson claims to be peddling truth and absolute truth at that. We think we know better, but we always admit that we could be wrong. The thing we find so irritating about fundamentalists is that, instead of saying, "We believe this is the truth," as any intellectually honest person would do, they say, "This is the truth." The religionist might say, "I know the will of God," to which we might reply, "You think you know the will of God," to which the religionist might reply, "I know that I know the will of God." This is outrageously rude and arrogant. Does the religionist imagine that he can know something with certainty that could remain hidden from us?
We know that nearly everything believed by our ancestors, outside the realm of mathematics, where truth is essentially definitional, has eventually proved to be wrong. That's why we would love to catch Robertson in an inconsistency that could be used to pin him to the wall. Only the day before yesterday, May 29, 1990, Robertson "saw", presumably by means of his divine gift of extra-sensory perception, some person somewhere being healed of multiple sclerosis. The Southeast Texas Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society tells me that multiple sclerosis is incurable, but anyone may go into remission for an indefinite period at any time. No one has the resources to identify and track the case history of everyone who went into remission on May 29th, and Pat knows that, but what I want to know is, if Pat's all-powerful deity vouchsafed him the knowledge that someone was being cured, why couldn't he have given the name and address as well!
Nothing, absolutely nothing verifiable by the intellect or the senses, distinguishes Pat Robertson from the meanest charlatan and confidence man. He refuses to give evidence for his claims and we cannot disprove them. May I suggest that, if we are not to rule out religious revelation altogether, we should apply the criteria suggested by William James  to determine if Robertson's religious revelations are valid, namely, "philosophical reasonableness and moral helpfulness". Now, the philosophical premise of Jesus, namely, that man should reject material compensation for his good works, seems to satisfy both of these criteria, as we shall show in the long section on the work ethic which appears below, but Robertson's political philosophy is as far from that of Jesus as it can possibly be.
Actually, "Jesus" to a fundamentalist is essentially a code word for membership in his cult. The other day I called the "prayer line" for one of the television ministries and described a friend who behaved essentially as Jesus behaved in his day. He gave up his craft (carpentry); he hung out with prostitutes and drug dealers (tavern operators/publicans - alcohol is a drug); he drank but was not an addict; he wandered around the country with a gang of young men all of whom he convinced to quit their jobs too; he never went to church, insulted priests, and bad-mouthed the dominant religionists; he repudiated his own mother, breaking her heart; he had visions, heard voices, claimed divinity, and tried to start a new religion. The woman I spoke to was immediately convinced that my friend was indeed a drug addict despite my protestations to the contrary. (She probably had a mental picture of someone like Charles Manson.) I asked if she thought he needed professional help. She said of course she thought so. "Wouldn't anyone think so?" I think it would be interesting to call a large number of these prayer lines and see how many of the "prayer partners" can recognize Jesus when he is described to them as though he were alive in a modern setting. Would this not partially corroborate my thesis that the statement "Jesus is Lord", and, for that matter, fundamental Christianity itself, has little to do with the Jesus of the gospels?
It seems clear to me that the world would be better off if we took the advice of Jesus, but that is not what political conservatives like Pat Robertson recommend. Despite his professed rejection of materialism, Robertson believes in business, the use of money to make money, and the profit motive. Jesus believed that we should stop seeking material reward for what we do, but, clearly, not all of us can stop fishing or farming and become itinerant preachers. Most of us must produce some food, clothing, or shelter, or some of the other necessities of an abundant life, as well as pursuing spiritual growth. And, we must do so while renouncing material reward. But, this cannot be done unilaterally. Thus, the change that Jesus hoped for must be political; we must construct a society, or at least a subculture, where no one accepts material reward and everything is free, that is, a society without money or trade. Nothing could be further from the politics of Pat Robertson. In the discussion below on the work ethic we would like to show that the spiritual vision of conservatives like Pat Robertson is bankrupt, but a modernized version of the philosophy of Jesus satisfies William James' two criteria, which, in my lexicon, are equivalent to aesthetics and utility.
To summarize, religionists who believe that they have the final answer to all spiritual questions and that their beliefs, which are the absolute and final truth, should be applied to everyone are a threat to the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State and, indeed, to freedom itself. Also, because most TV preachers will stop at nothing to spread their doctrines and enlarge their ministries, possibly for personal gain, they represent a danger to the spiritual progress of mankind. They trample upon ordinary standards of human decency and come devilishly close to breaking the law. Even if we can't get them sent to jail, we ought to be able to employ the media effectively to discredit them even among many believers. Because they refuse to preach good morals and displace those who do, many clergymen represent a very real threat to the continued existence of the human race. Finally, if we can provide evidence that will force all reasonable people (eventually) to abandon faith in Christianity, without abandoning faith in Goodness, we can save the world from this peril.
Some Christian apologists point to the large number of believers in Christianity as evidence of its validity. This is the 50-million-Frenchmen-can't-be-wrong fallacy. Like all such fallacies, it's a fallacy because it's irrelevant. But, it is, nonetheless, useful to point out some of the reasons for the spread of Christianity, above and beyond the romantic attractiveness of its story.
Christianity has been promoted aggressively throughout the globe by missionaries, evangelists, explorers, and conquistadors. This was done partly to facilitate the colonization of conquered peoples for commercial purposes. Also, many sects have advocated large families, sometimes prohibiting birth control, in order to gain a large number of adherents without even going to the trouble of proselytizing. This can easily be shown to be immoral, but it's enough to say, for now, that it's unfair to spread one's belief by means of the gullibility of innocent children who are inclined or forced to trust their parents in matters of faith. To evaluate the role played by reason in the selection of one faith over another, consider the probability of becoming a Hindu if one's parents were Christians.
Finally, if number of adherents were the test of validity, other religions would take precedence over Christianity. It is more enlightening, however, to determine if anyone stands to gain by the spread of Christianity. Thus, we study motivation to identify culpability.
Down through the ages priests have been operating religions for the benefit of themselves, for the benefit of the ruling class, with which they may be identical or closely allied (except in those rare times when the priests and the rulers have been in conflict), or for the benefit of a political or social policy about which they felt strongly and from which they had much to gain, e.g., the escape of the Jews from bondage in Egypt. Traditionally the clergy has been more Machiavellian than altruistic, although the young priest starts out with worthy enough motives, no doubt. Why should we expect things to be any different now than they were in the days of the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Many apostles of the tiny sect of Jesus have become just like the corrupt clergy they hoped to replace. In particular, they wallow in materialism, dressing like the ruling class, driving fancy cars if they do not have chauffeurs, and living in homes that are beyond the reach of the masses. We must not forget, though, that even those who live modestly, even those who are not obsessed with power are interested in the spread of their faith, which is, after all, the real danger.
Hopefully, the honest clergyman, genuinely interested in the spiritual welfare of his congregation, has not disappeared completely, but he must be suffering financially from competition with high-powered ministers who use the latest media techniques and marketing tactics to attract parishioners. Nowadays, televangelists collect millions of dollars and some live lavish lifestyles, as we have seen.
I have a friend who is a Christian minister. He has had ample opportunity to attack my views. Always, it seems, underlying his criticism is the partially veiled challenge: Who are you to question the Bible? Who are you to think for yourself and challenge the prophets? This is an entirely irrelevant ad verecundiam argument designed to prey on my natural humility. What sort of a person would I be if I didn't think for myself! The priests have always used arguments like this to retain power over us, which has not always been used in our best interests. In any case, the clergy live at the expense of the productive members of society, in addition to whatever else they do.
But don't religions do a lot of good? Don't ministers and priests perform a useful function in society? Undoubtedly religion satisfies a deep-seated need felt by most people. In addition, it makes it easier for some people to face inevitable death. Genuinely religious people attempt to establish an absolute and final purpose for our lives and many search for answers to other eternal questions. Religion can facilitate the spiritual growth of man and mankind in other ways as well. One wonders, though, whether religion is the only, or even the best, way to pursue these goals and, if so, is the Christian religion, as it is practiced generally, at all successful in achieving them.
On the basis of the behavior of the majority of adherents to the Christian faith, I am forced to answer both of these questions in the negative. The lack of good works by Christians compares unfavorably with the behavior of secular humanists and atheists. Especially in the defense of human rights do Christians appear to be deficient. Many so-called Christians are political conservatives, despite the incompatibility of right-wing American politics with the philosophy of Jesus. I wonder what the results might be, for example, if all of the congregations of all of the Christian churches of America were polled on the death penalty.
Also, it is easy to show that the philosophy of Jesus is incompatible with capitalism, and, yet, the primary function of the Christian churches in America seems to be to support capitalism. Presumably, this is why the political power of the clergy is tolerated by the ruling class. (Recall that the missionaries were the first wave of the capitalist invasion of Africa. It was Christianity that justified the domination of the "inferior" heathen races by the "superior" "Christian" races.)
As if we needed further evidence of the social harm done by Christianity, it is worthwhile to point out that practically none of its ministers actively preaches ethics. The businessman and his henchmen commit reprehensible acts all week long, but after attending the church service they feel redeemed, if not by Christ having died for their sins, at least by virtue of having done their duty by their god. (The propitiation of deities is a feature of all primitive religions.) The minister has condemned the day-to-day activities of most of his parishioners but in such an abstract way that they will always feel that his remarks apply to everyone but themselves. Notice that the preacher never says that, if you work for a company that tells lies on TV, you are a sinner, if you work for a company that pollutes the air, you are a sinner. As for the victims of capitalism, they face another week of toil confident of the goodness of their lives here on earth, if not of their inevitable reward in heaven, and, thus, they are able to endure a dehumanizing regimen. Christ having died for their sins, many Christians do not take personal responsibility for their acts, which fact is apparent in their daily lives. But, in addition to failing to inculcate ethical principles within their congregations, the Christian clergy indulge in manifold unethical acts themselves:
They use television as a medium for proselytizing and collecting funds, sometimes making extravagant promises. A fundraiser on the Trinity Broadcasting Network promises a financial return that is guaranteed to be many times whatever you give him. He claims that the money you give him is a gift directly to God. Will the government please investigate this man's finances! Television, including the cable, is a sacred (properly immune from violation) public trust; it must not be used for the private gain of special interests.
Some Christian clergymen encouraged a boycott of the Martin Scorsese movie, "The Last Temptation of Christ". This was a violation of the community's First Amendment rights.
Some televangelists threaten television viewers with everlasting damnation and torture if the viewers do not join their religion. This is spiritual extortion and, in case small children are watching, it is child abuse. This could not be justified even if they were right, but, as we shall show, the probability that they are right is practically zero.
They use the phrase "Jesus is Lord" in a high-handed and capricious manner, thus, in effect, advocating the toleration of feudalistic principles, the overthrow of which was the basis of the American revolution.
Some clergymen, notably John Osteen, who was the target of a bomb attack recently (!), employ outdoor advertising, a practice that has despoiled and continues to despoil our cities and countryside.
This list could go on and on, as most of us know. Additional violations of ethics will be alluded to in the sequel, but the work ethic, which is derived from the doctrine of original sin, is pernicious enough to have a rather lengthy section devoted to it here. The work ethic is unethical!
This essay is in the list of ancillary essays on my homepage; therefore, if you don’t mind, I will place a hyperlink here. It is supposed to be part of this essay. I believe that it is the part of this essay that led to the cancellation of the serialization of this essay in The Truth Seeker Supplement after the first two installments appeared in Volume 117, No. 2, May, 1990, and in the next issue. In fact, they ceased publication of the entire supplement.
The most important defect of Christianity is that, while it promises personal salvation, it does nothing to improve the miserable circumstances of the mass of humanity. Personal salvation won't help society. Despite the numerous Christians who consider themselves saved, the social practices that are destroying society continue apace with "saved" Christians in the vanguard. Christians, who believe that the world must continue to be "a vale of misery and woe" until the stars fall from the skies and Jesus comes walking on the clouds, are not inclined to try to improve a world that is inherently doomed because of man's "natural" sinful nature. Thus they are unwilling to attempt any of the systems for change that are from time to time proposed by social thinkers. Bertrand Russell  said, "It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion." (I would have said "organized religion".)
In Christianity we find the belief in (i) the Bible (corrected for errors in transcription) as the infallible word of God, (ii) a divine personage born of a virgin birth, (iii) a man who is both the son of and identical with the one and only god, (iv) original sin, (v) the atonement for the sins of others by the death of a personal savior, (vi) the resurrection from death of Jesus, (vii) the ascension of Jesus and his continued advocacy before the throne of God for those who accept him as their personal savior, (viii) the imminent return of Jesus, and (ix) the bodily resurrection of the dead and the everlasting reward of the saved and the eternal damnation of the unjust. One finds considerable variation in belief among Christian sects, but most sects believe in most of the above core doctrine along with various physical miracles supposedly performed by Jesus during his lifetime.
Many of the above beliefs are not peculiar to Christianity. Infallible doctrines, virgin births, atonements, resurrections, avatars, messiahs, and life after death with reward and punishment are themes running through many primitive religions that are repudiated by Christians. A look through Fraser's The Golden Bough  will acquaint one with the pervasiveness of these traditional beliefs. Why should we believe that the numerous traditional accounts of such doctrines, events, beings, and promises were false then, but are true now in the Christian context? Isn't it much more likely that the persistence of these ideas in human culture is linked to deep-seated psychological aspects of our being rather than revealed Christian truth? Why should we reject the Druid and accept the Christian account of the same phenomenon? What, after all, is the probability that these things were false then but are true now? Remember, too, that the validity of Christianity depends not on one or two of these articles of faith being true, but, rather, on all of them being true, therefore the probabilities of the individual doctrines being correct must be multiplied together to obtain the probability that Christianity is valid. If Jesus were God, however, the probability of the other claims being true rises dramatically.
Since Christianity claims to be the one true faith, it is completely disqualified if it turns out that it is only one true faith out of many. So, it is no good saying that every religion is true in its way. Christianity is either completely true or completely false. If Christianity is false, many of its advocates must cease and desist from their present courses of action.
Let us put ourselves, for the moment, in the position of a completely unbiased outside observer trying to assess the claims to validity of the Christian faith, variations in belief among the sects aside. In the absence of better information, a reasonable way to proceed might be to count the number of religions. One divided by the number of religions is the empirical probability that Christianity is correct. If there were only one hundred different religions, the empirical probability of Christianity being the correct religion would be a mere 0.01, i.e., one chance in a hundred. (Because of our experience in other questions of human knowledge, we may choose not to weight the various beliefs according to the number of adherents. As pointed out above, that may not be entirely disadvantageous to Christianity.) But, Christians don't look at the probability that their faith is correct from the viewpoint of an unbiased observer. But neither do the adherents of the other religions that claim to be the one true religion. The most reasonable attitude to adopt under these circumstances, namely, the incongruity of the empirical probability with the claims of religionists, is to discount all absolutist religions one hundred percent.
It is interesting to be instructed by Voltaire's famous savage, Ingenuous :
Ingenuous: Tell me whether there are any sects in geometry.
Gordon: No, my dear lad, all men are agreed on the truth when it is demonstrated, but they are all too divided over obscure truths.
Ingenuous: [Let us] say ... [that they are divided] over obscure falsehoods [rather than over obscure truths]. If there had been one single truth hidden in your piles of arguments that have been repeated over and over for so many centuries, without a doubt it would have been discovered, and the universe would have agreed on at least that one point. If that truth were necessary, as the sun is to the earth, it would shine like the sun. It is an absurdity, it is an outrage against the human race, it is felonious assault against the infinite and supreme Being to say: There is a truth essential to man, and God has hidden it.
Or, as Shaw has Hotchkiss say in "Getting Married" , "Religion is a great force: the only real motive force in the world; but what you fellows dont understand is that you must get at a man through his own religion and not through yours. Instead of facing that fact, you persist in trying to convert all men to your own little sect, so that you can use it against them afterwards. You are all missionaries and proselytizers trying to uproot the native religion from your neighbor's flowerbeds and plant your own in its place. You would rather let a child perish from ignorance than have it taught by a rival sectary. You talk to me of the quintessential equality of coal merchants and British officers; and yet you cant see the quintessential equality of all the religions. Who are you, anyhow, that you should know better than Mahomet or Confucius or any of the other Johnnies who have been on this job since the world existed?"
As the reader may have guessed, I must quibble with Hotchkiss' equivalencing religions that claim to be the absolutely one true religion and those that don't. Hotchkiss has generated a paradox. Religions are equivalent provided that they recognize equivalence, otherwise not. There is a similar paradox implicit in his final statement. If you think you know better than other philosophers, then you don't, but, if you don't think you know better than other philosophers, then you might. But, these minor obscurities aside, the main point is well taken.
I wish to propose for the reader's favorable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.
Let us return to the core of the Christian doctrine and analyze each of these core beliefs one at a time, assuming for a moment that we have no idea where they came from and that we don't know that they are somewhat discredited by their origins in prehistory.
Correcting the Bible for errors in transcription is an impossible task, therefore the infallibility of the Bible is meaningless as there is no infallible text to which we may refer. Whenever we point out an inconsistency, the apologist will claim that it was due to an error in transcription. We must look for statements in the Bible the accuracy or intent of which is agreed upon generally.
In Genesis 1:7 we read that God "divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament". I do not see how this can be interpreted in any other way than the following: The writer of this passage believed that rain comes from a reservoir of water in the sky that from time to time, presumably whenever God feels like it, leaks some of its contents onto the earth beneath. Thus, presumably, God did not understand solubility, subcooling, nucleation, drop growth, and precipitation. For someone who created the universe, He doesn't seem to know much. At least He's not telling. There are indications, too, that the authors of the Bible believed that when it rained in one place it rained everywhere. This is inconsistent with the Bible being the word of the Creator.
There are moral lapses, too, in the Bible. I do not, nor will I ever, believe that a divine being ordered the destruction of innocent animals in order to do his will (I Samuel 15:3 and elsewhere). I cannot prove that God and I must share the same sense of morals, but the claim that my sense of morals is of divine origin is no more outlandish than any other religious belief. For additional inconsistencies and lapses of morals in the Bible see The Bible Handbook .
As we all know, practically no one actually follows the advice of Jesus, but it is interesting to contemplate what might happen if someone did. Personally, I believe that each of us should contribute as much to human welfare as he or she can while consuming as little material wealth as possible. In my opinion, anyone who doesn't think that that would make the world a better place, devotees of self-interest, say, ought to think harder. But, if any married man with children actually gave all he had to the poor and devoted himself exclusively to spiritual matters (Matthew 19:21 and elsewhere), his wife would have him committed. More extreme still, imagine what would happen to a man who castrated himself in order to avoid sexual lust as Jesus seems to suggest we should do according to Matthew 18:8,9 and Matthew 19:12. Would not this put him in jeopardy of involuntary admission to a mental hospital?
Christian creationists attempt to defend the two or three conflicting accounts of creation in Genesis by pointing out flaws and inconsistencies in the modern theory of evolution. Although most intelligent people prefer this theory to the creation story in the Bible, modern proponents of evolution play into the hands of the creationists by attributing greater authority to the theory than it deserves. Scientists should be open to improved creation theories as well as improved theories of evolution, which are certain to come along as soon as the current theory is discredited. We do not expect to discover absolute scientific truth. That's part of the beauty of science. When scientists become as dogmatic as religionists, science suffers and opportunistic religionists take advantage.
As suggested previously, a virgin birth is a feature of many primitive religions. The virgin birth is useful to establish the divinity of Jesus and to explain his exemption from original sin, but Jesus didn't seem to be aware of it, which is inconsistent with omniscience. At least, the writers of the gospels do not report any evidence that Jesus was aware of his immaculate conception. Also, Paul does not seem to be aware of it. The writers of the gospels give two different genealogies of Jesus from Abraham through the house of David to Joseph. These two genealogies are inconsistent, and, together, they are inconsistent with divine parentage. Amazingly, Christians have no difficulty entertaining mutually exclusive notions. Perhaps it is uncharitable of me to suggest that the writers of the gospels thought that giving Jesus royal ancestry might enhance his prestige.
Stott  claims that Jesus was God because (i) he said he was, (ii) he was without sin, and (iii) he was returned from the dead. Avatars have been a feature of numerous primitive religions. We shall take up (i) and (ii) here, but discuss (iii) in a section devoted to the resurrection.
Lewis  writes:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." ... A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic ... or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
Lewis goes on in this vein for a few more lines. Normally I would not attack a person who is unable to defend himself, but Lewis has attacked Shaw, who, also, is unable to defend himself, so I shall defend Shaw as I imagine he might defend himself.
First of all, people who claim that the opposition believes a "really foolish thing" ought to be particularly careful not to say anything foolish themselves, but Lewis has blundered into a well-known fallacy. He has excluded an obvious and highly probable middle ground, namely, that Jesus, like everyone else, changed during his lifetime. Jesus left the secure ground of traditional moral teachings that he attained, possibly, in his travels in the East and allowed himself to become self-deluded by the adoration displayed by his disciples, just as numerous others before him and since have done. The prophetic genius turned madman is a proverb.
In his preface to Androcles and the Lion , G. Shaw points out that, after Peter solves the problem of who Jesus is by exclaiming "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God," Jesus undergoes a great change and begins to become obsessed with a conviction of his divinity. In fact, his natural haughtiness becomes less restrained and he never seems to let pass an opportunity to shower his adversaries with abuse. As Shaw puts it, he becomes less than civil in ordinary discourse.
One wonders, then, in what sense Jesus was sinless. The story of the Canaanite woman seems to impute bigotry to Jesus in addition to his other questionable traits, cf., his sophistic and, perhaps, cowardly answer to the question about paying taxes. I may be wrong, but it seems clear to me that, when his own disciples characterized him as sinless, they meant simply that he had never had sex with a woman. After all, they had no idea what Jesus may have been thinking from moment to moment, so they could not have determined that he had been without sin in thought, a mode of sin of which Jesus himself had made them aware.
When Jesus was taken to be an ordinary man, his sayings gave evidence of the highest moral character and social wisdom. When he was taken to be a god, his sayings became inexplicable, inconsistent, and hypocritical. Thus, as a god he became less godlike than he was as a man.
The biblical basis of original sin was discussed in the section on the work ethic. The question of whether original sin exists or not boils down to whether man is born evil or whether man becomes evil due to the society in which he finds himself, of which religion itself is a component. The concept of original sin supposes that people are born in sin, whereas sin, which, after all, is nothing but foolishness, probably arises because of the social system into which people are born. The social system might have arisen accidentally. When the first cave man considered taking more than his fair share or trying to dominate his tribe, he might have decided that it wouldn't be a good idea, since an even stronger man was bound to come along later whose victim he would become. On the other hand, maybe the lust for wealth and the will to power come directly from our animal nature, although not every animal species exhibits greed and pecking orders. Perhaps, sin originated from man's first demand for compensation for a good deed; i.e., sin originated in what we now call Trade rather than from man's first attempt to distinguish good from evil.
Certainly man is corruptible and we should remove the corrupting influences from society, one of which might be the work ethic itself. I believe that man, like the animals, is born innocent, but perhaps with an atavistic animal nature. (Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.) Hopefully, a child born into a decent environment will become self-socialized (fit for the companionship of other human beings without special training or coercion) when he reaches the age of reason (develops the ability to reason, about eight years of age or earlier). I can't prove this. It would be difficult to do experiments to decide if it is true because human beings may not be treated like lab animals (even lab animals should not be treated like lab animals), but the large number of wonderful children who appear to be without sin seems to indicate that the environment, and not original sin, is what shapes our characters.
Despite the difficulties, I have not completely abandoned the possibility of furnishing scientific proof for this thesis, which is at the core of my entire philosophy and, currently, must be taken on faith, just as the doctrine of original sin is taken on faith. (I never said that I would eliminate faith.) In any case, it is not at all clear that it is possible for the origin of sin, whatever it might have been, to be transmitted genetically.
The concept of the scapegoat is a feature of many religions, both primitive and modern. It is interesting though to contemplate what might be the effect on society of the belief that someone else has already died for one's sins and that no further expiation is necessary. Shaw  notes that (in 1915) "the conviction is spreading that to encourage a man to believe that though his sins be as scarlet he can be made whiter than snow by an easy exercise of self-conceit is to encourage him to be a rascal." The behavior of Christians seems to bear this out. Shaw goes on to say, "The fact that a believer [in atonement] is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality of happiness, and by no means a necessity of life. Whether Socrates got as much happiness out of life as Wesley is an unanswerable question; but a nation of Socrateses would be much safer and happier than a nation of Wesleys; and its individuals would be higher in the evolutionary scale." One might go further and suggest that those who derive their happiness from delusion are not living valid lives, at least in the existential sense.
Shaw recognizes the right to reject salvation: "Every man to whom salvation is offered has an inalienable [nontransferable (you can't even give it away)] natural right to say ‘No thank you: I prefer to retain my full moral responsibility: it is not good for me to be able to load a scapegoat with my sins: I should be less careful how I committed them if I knew they would cost me nothing.’" And, in the same vein: "The ‘saved’ thief experiences an ecstatic happiness that can never come to the honest atheist: he is tempted to steal again to repeat the glorious sensation. But if the atheist steals he has no such happiness. He is a thief and he knows he is a thief. Nothing can rub that off him. He may try to soothe his shame by some sort of restitution or equivalent act of benevolence; but that does not alter the fact that he did steal; and his conscience will not be easy until he has conquered his will to steal and changed himself into an honest man by developing that divine spark within him which Jesus insisted on as the everyday reality of what the atheist denies."
This claim seems to me to be an abuse of language. In The Random House Dictionary of the English Language , death is taken to be "the total and permanent cessation of all the vital functions of an animal or plant." One reads, in the daily press, accounts of people whose hearts have stopped or whose breathing has stopped or whose body temperature has dropped excessively and who have subsequently revived. These people normally are questioned by the press, especially the tabloids or check-out-counter press, about what it was like to have died. These people do not know what it is like to die because they have not died, of which fact the continuation of their vital functions is proof. If we accept the biblical account as historical fact, we must assume that, during the period between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus was in a state other than death.
Let us consider the possibility of a supernatural event having occurred however. Stott  claims that the body of Jesus "vaporized". He means that it changed from material to something other than material (perhaps something spiritual) instantly. This is a violation of conservation of mass, a fundamental principle of physics. Now, belief in physics requires a leap of faith, just as does belief in Christianity. Let us decide which theory is preferable on the basis of reason just as we would in a court of law, which, if you remember, is where this dispute is imagined to be adjudicated.
Christians acknowledge the existence of laws of nature that we are capable of discovering by scientific methods, except that these laws are supposed to be able to be suspended by God whenever he chooses, in order to prove a point or to carry out an agenda. If we grant the existence of a Supreme Being, presumably natural law would be the law of that Supreme Being. As Henry Lam says, "Is it likely that God would violate His own law?" According to Einstein, God may be subtle, but He is not malicious. It would be cruelty at best to grant us the spirit to inquire into nature and then to change nature in an arbitrary and unaccountable manner so that the fundamental principles to which He leads us turn out to be provisional. On the contrary, those who seek the fundamental truths of nature have had to deal with many inexplicable events, but there has never been a documented case of a gross violation of physical law in the entire history of science. It is one thing to send a photon off in an unexpected direction to help us correct a flawed theory of radiation, but to have the Empire State Building disappear into thin air (in the presence of no other event) is quite another.
All primitive religions rely on magic. This helps the priest retain a strong hold over his sheep. If he is imagined to be able to withhold rainfall, his political power is not likely to be questioned. Jesus himself did not place an undue emphasis on miracles, which, for the most part, consisted in healings. (Possibly, the reason he could "cast out demons" is that he didn't believe in demons.) As we all know, most diseases run their natural courses and eventually cease to trouble us. Although there is no such thing as perfect health, we expect to be cured of all of the diseases we contract except the one that kills us, which is usually the last. Medical science no longer questions the fact that a sudden change in our mental attitude can cure us "instantaneously". Clearly, there will always be a first moment when the man with the sprained ankle can arise and walk. There is a first moment, too, when we realize we can no longer feel the pain in our stomach, ear, or head. As Shaw  ascribes to Rousseau, "There is nothing to making a lame man walk: thousands of lame men have been cured and have walked without any miracle. Bring me a man with only one leg and make another grow instantaneously on him before my eyes, and I will really be impressed." The other miracles of Jesus are easy to explain and he himself discouraged his disciples from broadcasting them.
Miracles do not enhance the message of the gospels, but they do constitute a threat to the nonbeliever. This is extremely convenient for the Christian clergy. But, those who accept the social wisdom of Jesus and reject the miracles behave at least as well as those who accept the entire Christian doctrine, especially if they (the skeptics) accept the existential premise that they are responsible for everything they do and there is no redemption from bad behavior. Since no supernatural event has ever been verified scientifically, claims of supernatural events should not be admitted into courts of law or into reasoned debate. Isn't the miracle of nature and human consciousness wonderful enough!
Clearly, the benefits of being "saved" begin to be accrued immediately upon whole-hearted acceptance of the Christian premise; they are not deferred to an afterlife. If they were, the clergy would have a great deal more trouble making converts, as people have a great deal of difficulty conceiving of their own deaths. ("Even the condemned man whose foot has reached the top step of the scaffold imagines that there is still a lot of time left before the noose is placed over his head.") As enumerated by Michael Hakeem , "Believers have been so deeply pushed into a cocoon of good feelings, great expectations, ceaseless and overwhelming love, attitudes of superiority for being in the faith, relief that all will be forgiven, and affiliation with the supreme operator of the world that intellectual concerns pale into insignificance." Indeed, I have never attended a church service or a Sunday school lesson that did not eventually get around to the superiority of the faith being promulgated over every other faith, thus reinforcing the natural conceit of the believer.
I can easily understand how I myself might be able to surrender my soul to such a paradise of promises, thereby delivering myself of all the painful doubts and moral choices with which I am continually confronted. But, if I should do that I would be giving up my birthright and duty as a human being, the right and duty to carry out my own spiritual quest with my own heart and mind. To quote Shaw  again, "No man who shuts his eyes and opens his mouth when religion and morality are concerned can share the same Parnassian bench with those who make an original contribution to religion and morality, were it only a criticism."
The Christian believer is in danger of more than the invalidity of his entire life if his doctrine proves false (and, on the basis of the logic presented here, it seems that it will prove false). Suppose that, of all the Christian doctrines, only the part about reward and punishment in an afterlife or a day of judgment turns out to be true. In that case, the Christian advocate is in serious trouble. He or she is the one who is guilty of spiritual extortion and other crimes against humanity, which might not go unpunished. On the other hand, if I should accept Christianity in the face of my reasonable doubts and abandon my quest for understanding, I would be found guilty of the betrayal of my own conscience, provided, of course, that my personal spiritual instincts, presumably of divine origin, are not misguided. Finally, my faith teaches me that, if I have struggled for understanding and have failed, I will be forgiven by a just God, if such a god exists.
The return of Jesus in the clouds when the stars fall from the sky is predicted by Jesus in Matthew 24:29,30. In Matthew 24:34 he says that the present generation shall not pass before these things occur. He was wrong. That in itself should be enough to discredit Christianity, but people who want to believe continue to believe. It is necessary for theologians to provide an explanation. In Matthew 25:36 Jesus says that no one but God knows exactly when the Second Coming will occur. Thus, unless Jesus were God, he too would not know and could have been mistaken, in which case he wasn't God. But, according to The Dartmouth Bible , Christian contemporaries of Jesus believed that the Second Coming and the end of the world was imminent as do modern Christians. They were wrong then. Why should we suppose that they are right now? How many chances should they be given to terrorize humanity on the basis of predictions that fail to come true over and over again?
Jessie Cheek  argues as follows: First, on the basis of the nature of prophecy in the Old Testament, we should not expect exact chronological accuracy. Second, Jesus meant that these events would occur in the spiritual realm. Third, the word "generation" may have had a different meaning for Jesus than it has for us. But, it seems clear that his followers understood this the same way we would and, furthermore, Jesus makes some other statements that lead us to believe that he meant that he would return before everyone within earshot was dead. Her fourth argument, that Jesus himself didn't know exactly when this would occur, has been discussed above. To me, Cheek's arguments sound like grasping at straws. Contrast this type of equivocation with the proof of a great mathematical theorem that leaves one without the slightest doubt of its truth. In our court of law we will have to prefer the simpler explanation over the more complicated and convoluted one, according to the principle of logic known as Occam's razor.
The following argument against the plausibility of Christianity is one that I find extremely compelling. It is the one that I return to whenever I find my faith in reason faltering. (I confess to having been victimized by superstitions to which I have been made vulnerable by my own fear of - and wonder at - death.) I have chosen to devote an entire section to the death of centrism even though the discussion could have been incorporated into the section above.
During the time of Jesus, people believed that Palestine, if not Jerusalem, was the center of the universe. Jesus seemed to be living at the center of the universe and it was not entirely implausible that his comings and goings might indeed be the central events in time as well as space. Later on it was discovered that the world was much larger than previously believed. There is a big difference between being born in the neighborhood of Nazareth and being born in Alaska. This asymmetry seems strange from the point of view of someone who did not have the opportunity to live in the Promised Land and know Jesus as a living man. Still later it was discovered that Earth was not the center of the universe, a fact that many church officials found disturbing for the same reason that it is being pointed out here, it discredits church doctrine. Moreover, time has been going on for much longer than previously supposed, which introduces additional asymmetry. There is a big difference between being born 10,000 years before Jesus and being born in the same place and at the same time as Jesus or 2000 years after Jesus.
But the demise of centrism continued and, as the time and place of the birth and death of Jesus becomes increasingly less central, his goings and comings, from the viewpoint of someone who is contemplating all of space and time, appear to be less and less distinguished. Not only is not the earth the center of the universe, but the sun is not even in a very distinguished position in our galaxy, which is only one of a large number of galaxies and may not even be a very important one, except, of course, to us. But, proximity to ourselves should not enjoy undue significance among people who are searching for the final, absolute, divine principle of the universe. Einstein showed that it is meaningless to suggest that any point in space or in time is distinguished in the sense that the birth of Jesus and the town of Bethlehem were distinguished, with the exception of the singular point in space-time known as the big bang. But, then, Stephen Hawking  came along and suggested that that singular point may not be as singular as previously believed, that the four-dimensional universe of space and time (along with some other dimensions that are needed to account for the fundamental forces) is finite and without boundary. Thus, the big bang disappears and the decline and fall of centrism appears to be complete.
This section began in fairly certain fact, namely, that the Promised Land and the life of Jesus do not appear to be the center of our universe in space and time, and ended with some fairly wild speculation. But, the growing tendency to recognize ourselves less and less as the only thing that matters is unmistakable. I claim that Christianity could not have arisen among people who recognized the insignificance of the human race in all of "creation". This is not a proof that the claims of Christianity are false. (We must await the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe before we can be absolutely certain that the human race is not at the spiritual center.) Nothing I have said is absolute proof of the invalidity of Christian thought, but with each new way of looking at things the Christian position becomes less tenable.
In America we believe that people have a right to practice any religion they please even if it is absurd, provided they do not attempt to impose their religion on others; that is, they have a right to practice their religion in private. My religion might involve smoking opium or eating peyote, and, according to the Constitution, I may do these things despite unconstitutional legislation to the contrary, but I must do them in private. It is desirable that people practicing various religions, living according to various cultures and lifestyles, live together in peace in the United States. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate. Jesus said he came not in peace but with a sword. If Christians persist in their militaristic tactics, they will bring violence down upon themselves and many innocent people. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Therefore, it is time to state the minimal list of terms under which a truce might be declared between Christians and non-Christians.
Religionists must remove their religious rituals and practices, especially prayer and proselytizing, from public places (other than their own churches), including television. The so-called airwaves, and lately the cable, are deemed to be public trusts. Believers may proselytize in private or in their own churches, which may be open to the public. They must keep their religions out of the schools, out of government, and out of other public places. Thus it is improper to begin sessions of Congress with a prayer. Many religious and nonreligious people are offended by prayer. The words "under God" should be excised from the Pledge of Allegiance, the recitation of which, as a public ritual, has little to recommend it, except as a ploy to brainwash ourselves and our children. (Patriotism makes nations behave stupidly, just as egotism makes individuals behave stupidly.)
Religionists must stop soliciting money in public and on TV, even for charities if any part of that charitable work could involve proselytizing. This applies especially to televangelists who beg and badger for money. Even charities that are supposed to save the children while teaching them Christianity, which, as we have shown, is one of the root causes of their suffering, must be excluded from public places, including television.
All Americans must cease and desist from attempting to inject their personal morality into the American legal system and into the private lives of American citizens. This means an end to the war on drugs and the campaign against abortion.
Tax breaks for churches should be withdrawn. As we have indicated, many of these institutions are operated for the profit of their employees. (But that goes for many other so-called nonprofit organizations.) If, for some reason, nonprofit status is given to churches and/or churches are allowed to solicit funding publicly, the earnings of the clergy, including gifts, expense accounts, free housing, etc., must be a matter of public record.
No one may teach, in the public schools, the doctrine of any religion as though it were the truth. Teachers may teach what it is that some believe so long as they teach what everyone else believes, not just what Christians, Jews, and Muslims believe but what atheists, deists, agnostics, free thinkers, humanists, etc. believe. Since it is impossible to teach what everyone believes, the schools should probably stick to teaching intellectual and manual skills and basic indisputable factual knowledge, which might include the latest scientific theories provided only that their tentative nature is emphasized. Furthermore, teachers must not take advantage of getting to know students under the auspices of the public schools to evangelize them privately after school.
The Doctrine of Separation of Church and State is the fundamental basis for these demands. All religions and religious and philosophical points of view must be given equal time in the public arena. This might be accomplished by reserving a special television channel for debate, but no one may be excluded, no matter how bizarre his ideas. Thus, the viewers of that channel might be exposed to a lot of nonsense, however accurate schedules made available well in advance might make it possible to avoid ideas one does not wish to consider.
But, the complaint against televangelists, who proselytize, raise money, and threaten damnation on television, is based, in part, on the laws against false advertising, since the activities of televangelists can be interpreted as self-advertising. If the religion can be shown to be false under the ordinary rules of evidence that would apply to the prosecution of any other crime, then the laws against false advertising would apply. If special laws were passed, or existing laws were interpreted, to make an exception to the laws against false advertising in the case of religions, those laws would be unconstitutional because they would concern the establishment of a religion. The establishment of Christianity as the state religion in the United State (and in the rest of the world) is clearly part of the televangelist agenda. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff, but the case outlined above should be sufficient to discredit Christianity in the minds of an impartial jury, if one can be found.
I believe that some religionists, particularly fanatical Christian fundamentalists, wish to wipe out the last vestiges of free and independent thought from the United States and, indeed, the entire world in order to set up a world-wide totalitarian theocracy. They are attacking the Doctrine of Separation of Church and State, which they correctly recognize as a major obstacle to their agenda. We must use the Doctrine and do everything in our power to halt this attack on free thought and on the Doctrine itself and to prevent the further spread of Christianity because, as we have shown, Christian doctrine, which is almost certainly false, has an injurious effect on humanity that could not have been predicted by the early Christians. In particular, Christian doctrine, including the work ethic, has been used and continues to be used to provide moral justification for our corrupt and evil social system, which is based on hypocrisy and greed, which is inconsistent with the simple teachings of Jesus, and which is rapidly destroying the world.
Hopefully, this paper will help to discredit televangelists, who wish to dictate their own perverse brand of Christian "morality" to all of us in the areas of sex, drugs, education, and, in fact, in every aspect of public policy. We must find a way to counter their presence on broadcast and cable television, even if it means finding the money for a television channel of our own. In addition, we may be able to prevent the purveyors of commercial Christianity from callously cheating their viewers of their hard-earned money, which, in many cases, the victims can ill afford to lose. The investigations of televangelists and the reporting of the findings of such investigations should continue. Cutting off their funding would prevent televangelists from expanding their empires of misinformation. At the same time, we must provide alternatives, based on truth and reason, for the millions of misinformed and spiritually starved Americans.
May 31, 1990
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3. Fraser, James George, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 3rd ed, St. Martin's Press, New York (1963).
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