Tag Archives: david g. mcafee

How to Respond to Door-to-door Evangelists and Hotel Room Bibles

How to Respond to Door-to-door Evangelists and Hotel Room Bibles

Christian Evangelism is a common practice in the United States and throughout the world. Whether it comes in the form of missionaries who travel to underdeveloped nations to convert natives or door-to-door solicitors who hope to convince you of their “Truth” in your own home, it affects almost everyone. In many areas, you can’t even stay in a hotel without a Gideon-sponsored Bible in the nightstand. But how do you respond?

You could debate with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have in-depth discussions with the Mormons, and annotate hotel Bibles with plot holes and original criticisms, but now there’s something much easier and more effective. I’ve put together some of the best arguments and most damning biblical contradictions from my first book, Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, into a four-page flyer that serves as a response to common Christian arguments. At very least, you might encourage a few believers to think and research their faith… and researching is never a bad thing!

Download the free pamphlet here: Disproving Christianity Flyer

Sitting in my hotel thinking about making a sheet with contradictions from Disproving Christianity to slip into Bibles.

Sitting in my hotel thinking about making a sheet with contradictions from Disproving Christianity to slip into Bibles.

David G. McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of The Belief Book, a children’s book explaining the origins of beliefs and religion, and Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer. He is also an editor for Ockham Publishing and a contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

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Atheists Should Stop Trying to Destroy Religion

Atheists Should Stop Trying to Destroy Religion

By David G. McAfee, author of The Belief Book

I’m an atheist who studies religion. You might think that seems contradictory, but to me it makes all the sense in the world. I’ve never been religious, but I have always enjoyed learning about how religions start and spread, how they interact with and influence one another over time, and the psychology behind the ideas themselves. I’m incredibly interested in beliefs and myths and understand that there are good and bad aspects of faith, so imagine my surprise when people assume I want to “destroy,” “obliterate,” or “abolish” religion altogether just because I’m not a believer.

I partly understand the assumption because I know a lot of non-believers who want to do exactly that. I’ve heard people, who often call themselves “anti-theists” and who others might call “Fundamentalist Atheists” or “New Atheists,” refer to religion as a “cancer” that they want to surgically remove from humanity. But calling religion a cancer implies that it is always bad in all circumstances – that it isn’t beneficial to anyone and is dangerous in all its forms. Can we really say that’s the case for religion?

Rape or religion?

I consider myself a fan of a number of works written by Sam Harris, a neuroscientist and author often referred to as one of the “Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse,” but he said something I think was off in a 2006 interview with The Sun Magazine. He is quoted as saying, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.” He went on to explain that “more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than any other ideology.”

While I agree with Harris that religious extremism is dangerous, I don’t think religion itself is inherently evil and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s worse than rape. Religion isn’t a crime or a violation – it’s a tool. It’s been used to justify violence and bigotry, yes, but (due to the contradictory nature of holy texts) it’s also used at times as a means to promote well-being and reinforce positive ethics.

To answer the rape or religion question simply, think about all of the instances in which you think rape is completely acceptable and then compare that to the number of times when religious people are harmless. Think of your friends or relatives who quietly practice a religion without affecting others because it makes them feel good or because it provides a sense of community. Rape always causes harm – there are times when religions do not.

Wiping out religion.

While Harris’ scenario was hypothetical, magical, and – he admitted – inflammatory, there are many people who actively seek to destroy faith-based belief systems entirely. Some anti-theists hope to outlaw faith by enacting some sort of (unenforceable) thoughtcrime legislation, others think ridicule alone will completely eradicate supernatural beliefs, and a small number of these anti-theists want to end religion so badly that they see violence as the answer.

Recently, I was approached by a self-described anti-theist who suggested that killing every single religious person – man, woman, and child – was a viable “cure for religion.” This would be almost negligible if it were just a one-off occurrence, or if the person was saying it for shock value, but I’ve heard this proposal a number of times and this particular individual stressed his military background and demanded a logical rebuttal to his position. I told him that killing all religious people to end religion isn’t just a disturbing thought, it also wouldn’t work.

The urge to believe.

As someone who studies comparative religion, the idea of obliterating faith-based practices through genocide is especially confusing. It is well established that religion itself is a cultural universal and that it likely has or had evolutionary benefits, so why wouldn’t new religions arise after the mass deaths? History and anthropology tell us that new systems would arise, and they would look a lot like the old ones with different names and stories.

You can’t remove religions by force, either by banning them or by killing those who believe, because the feelings and circumstances that caused us to create them have remained largely unchanged for hundreds of thousands of years. The urge to believe still exists inside the minds of people, as does our desire to know “the unknown.” The fact is that we will probably never completely outgrow religion. We are prone to superstition, organization, and wishful thinking — and religions are often forged when those tendencies are realized.

Pascal Boyer, Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, says his research suggests that “atheism will always be a harder sell than religion because a slew of cognitive traits predispose us to faith.”

Is Religion on the Ropes?

The Pew Research Center recently released a report indicating that “the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.” This is good news because it shows that people are less likely to identify with a restricting dogma, but it doesn’t mean religion is coming to an end any time soon. In fact, more than 70 percent of American citizens still identify as Christians while the “unaffiliated” make up only 22 percent and atheists only three percent.

That isn’t to say religion will always be as strong as it is today, however. Tufts University Professor Daniel C. Dennett, another one of the so-called “Four Horsemen,” recently argued that “the future of religion is bleak.” I agree with the thrust of his article – that there is a rising tide of secularism in the age of information – but even he clarifies that this won’t mean an end to religion.

“If this trend continues, religion largely will evaporate, at least in the West,” Dennett wrote. “Pockets of intense religious activity may continue, made up of people who will be more sharply differentiated from most of society in attitudes and customs, a likely source of growing tension and conflict.”

What can we do?

So, if you can’t enact a successful prohibition on religious ideas, and it won’t work to kill all believers, how do we fix the issues that stem from or are justified by religion? We work to reform religion – to fight against the aspects of it that are harmful and allow people to practice those that aren’t – and promote secular religious education to help people better understand religions and how they arise.

I, for one, don’t hate religion. It’s not that black and white for me – I don’t have to either endorse all actions done in the name of religion or condemn its practice entirely. I hate religious extremism, but I don’t hate meditation or meditative prayer; I hate that religious ideals have consistently impeded science and invaded secular governments, but I don’t hate food drives and soup kitchens; I hate the “God is on our side” mentality and that millions of people think that religion is necessary to live a happy and moral life, but I don’t hate peaceful religious practices or people who happen to believe differently.

Are all religious people extremists? Are they all against science and in favor of knocking down the wall of separation between Church and State? Do they all hate people who believe differently because they’re evil? The answer, in each case, is “No.”

Fundamentalism as a common enemy.

Religion is not something you can simply erase; it’s an integral part of our history and (for better or worse) it will help shape our future. Religion was man’s first attempt to explain the unknown and it continues to be an inspiration for major (charitable and horrific) acts around the world every day, so it will likely exist for the foreseeable future. But does it have to exist in a stagnant state as it has for thousands of years? Many people, whether they identify with a tradition or not, think we can change religion for the better.

When reformation (and not extermination) is the goal, we atheist activists can find common ground with many believers. I know many Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists who would agree that fundamentalism within their respective religions is a problem that needs to be stopped – just as most atheists I know would never advocate violence against believers.

There are other areas of agreement between the rational but largely silent non-religious and religious majorities. I think most religious people and most non-believers, for instance, oppose things like Young Earth Creationism being taught in science class and are in favor of things like same-sex equality. If we work with open-minded religious people, we may be able to reduce religious extremism without eliminating anyone’s freedom to believe or worship and without killing anyone. I think it’s worth a shot.

Ultimately, you have to decide: do you think belief in god(s) is our biggest problem right now? Or organized religion? Or, like me, do you see scientific illiteracy and civil rights as the key issues?

Can we debate religion in a friendly manner?

Can we debate religion in a friendly manner?

David G. McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of The Belief Book, a children’s book explaining the origins of beliefs and religion, and Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer. He is also an editor for Ockham Publishing and a contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

Fun in the Philippines

Fun in the Philippines

By David G. McAfee

 

MANILA, Philippines — I recently traveled more than 7,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to an island country in Southeast Asia. The thousands of islands that make up the Philippines were beautiful, but I didn’t come to enjoy the view: I was invited to speak at the Philippine Atheists and Agnostics Society’s second annual convention. Continue reading

Ex-Leader of Hindu Temple Gets 27 Years for Ripping Off Followers

Ex-Leader of Hindu Temple Gets 27 Years for Ripping Off Followers

By David G. McAfee, author of The Belief Book

April 19 – The former leader of the now-defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia was sentenced April 13 to more than 27 years in federal prison after being convicted on more than 30 felony counts, including bank fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud and obstruction.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia sentenced Annamalai Annamalai, who was convicted on 34 felony counts after a two-week jury trial in August, to 27 years and three months in prison. Judge Batten also ordered him to not to engage in any “spiritual service for compensation.”

Prosecutors say Annamalai, who also goes by Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, charged his followers fees in exchange for “spiritual services.” The adherents typically paid via credit card and Annamalai charged the cards multiple additional times without authorization, according to John A. Horn, Acting U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Georgia.

“Annamalai perverted the sacred institution of religion by using it as a vehicle for greed and personal profit,” Horn said in an April 13 statement. “He convinced his victims that they had a problem in need of spiritual guidance, and then took advantage of their vulnerabilities for personal financial gain. The sentence rendered against him is lengthy but just and fair considering the irreparable harm he caused to his victims.”

Disputed Charges.

The prosecution says Annamalai made multiple false charges to his followers’ credit cards and, if they disputed the transactions, he submitted fraudulent supporting documents to credit card companies. Annamalai then filed “spurious lawsuits” against those who challenged the dubious charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Annamalai is further accused of manipulating audio recordings to make it appear as though his victims had agreed to the unauthorized charges. Annamalai then sent the altered recordings to police departments that were investigating criminal complaints levied against him, according to the government.

Annamalai Convicted.

Annamalai was convicted Aug. 25 of bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud in connection with the temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in 2009. Annamalai concealed funds from creditors by diverting credit card receipts and the temple’s donations to a bank account in a different name, prosecutors say.

Annamalai was also found guilty of three counts of obstruction and false statements in relation to a grand jury investigation into the bankruptcy case. The defendant sent a fake e-mail to a special agent at the Internal Revenue Service pretending to be a witness in the criminal investigation and sent false affidavits to the grand jury and the bankruptcy court, according to the indictment.

On April 13, almost eight months after Annamalai was convicted, Judge Batten sentenced him two 27 years and three months in prison. In addition to the prison term, the judge ordered the defendant not to charge for spiritual services and not to file any more frivolous, abusive or malicious lawsuits.

Judge Batten also recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that Annamalai be housed in a “Communications Management Housing Unit,” where his telephone calls and electronic communications will be closely monitored.

Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation, said the sentence is a “vital element in maintaining public confidence in our legal and financial system.”

“Annamalai Annamalai, a self-proclaimed ‘child prodigy’ and ‘priest,’ received his fate today for the fraud that he perpetrated on the faithful followers that believed in him,” Hyman-Pillot said. “This defendant utilized the nation’s financial system to steal money from unsuspecting victims and then used the money for his own personal benefit.”

By David G. McAfee

Bio: McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of The Belief Book, a children’s book explaining the origins of beliefs and religion, and Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer. He is also an editor for Ockham Publishing and a contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

Annamalai Annamalai Gets 27 Years

Annamalai Annamalai Gets 27 Years

Renewing the Focus on Arguments and Evidence

As many of you may know, while I always redact the identifying information of people who send me private messages, I’ve often posted public discussions on social media without censoring the names of participants. This was never an attempt to “shame” people who disagree with me, and in fact I applied that policy equally to “debate posts” as well as “featured comments” and other regular features on my Facebook page, but I don’t control the actions of others. And because of abuse I’ve personally witnessed, I’ve decided to start removing all name data from my posts. Continue reading

Religious Studies Grad, Artist Team Up To Teach Children about Beliefs

Religious Studies Grad, Artist Team Up To Teach Children about Beliefs

Secular author David G. McAfee and illustrator/writer Chuck Harrison worked together on “The Belief Book” – an interactive children’s book that helps to teach kids (and kids at heart) about critical thinking, the origins of beliefs, and religions.

February 7 – Religious Studies graduate and skeptical author David G. McAfee teamed up with Chuck Harrison, an illustrator and writer, to create The Belief Book, which helps kids of all ages on their journey toward understanding the world’s most important beliefs and how they are formed. Children young and old who embark on this quest will learn many things they may have always been curious about, including where the first ideas of “gods” came from and how the earliest religions were created and spread.

This first-of-its-kind children’s book has mental exercises and puzzles that can help anyone understand what beliefs are and how they affect everyone and everything. More importantly, The Belief Book outlines the difference between good beliefs, which are supported by evidence, and bad beliefs, which are based on emotion or biases.

With interactive activities and vivid illustrations, The Belief Book teaches children how to examine evidence and form their own ideas. They will learn the importance of definitions, of language in general, and of the scientific method. The book strives to show readers how to think about things in a way that will get them to the right beliefs, and not just which facts to memorize.

Readers will look at some of the most important questions ever asked, including “Where do we come from?” and “Who made us?” and “Why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast?” By the time they are done with the book, children will not only understand the answers to many of their biggest questions, but they will also see why their questions – and all questions – are so incredibly important.

 

The Belief Book

The Belief Book

For interviews or questions, contact:

David G. McAfee | PO Box 9661 | Canoga Park, CA 91304 | United States | David@DavidGMcAfee.com

About David G. McAfee: McAfee is a Religious Studies Graduate, journalist, and the author of two other titles: Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a contributor to American Atheist Magazine and an editor for Ockham Publishing. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions. He believes strongly that religious education and history should be taught in public schools, including and especially in the United States of America – where general knowledge about those topics is severely lacking. It is only by understanding how the religious systems work, and not by ignoring them completely, that McAfee says we can help others to make rational decisions about them.

About Chuck Harrison: Harrison is an illustrator and writer who lives with his son called Puff and his cat named Monkey in New York. His caffeine fueled works have been printed by DC Comics, Color Ink Book, The South Wedge Quarterly and in many other fine publications. Everything else you may wish to know about him can be discovered at iLikeChuckHA.com.

David G. McAfee interviews ‘Spirit Psychic’ Noah Alvarez

David G. McAfee interviews ‘Spirit Psychic’ Noah Alvarez

I have always been fascinated by people who claim to have supernatural or mystical abilities, including so-called psychics. While I can’t say I was ever a believer, the idea that some people could read others’ thoughts or see the future has interested me all my life. In an effort to learn more about this phenomenon I studied cold and hot reading tactics and, when reading about them wasn’t enough, I even implemented those methods myself as Suroh the Seer. But that still wasn’t enough. I wanted to find out even more about the people who claim to have these fantastic abilities, so I did the next logical thing: I asked them questions.

I decided to interview a psychic in my area and, after some online research, I stumbled across “spirit psychic” Noah Alvarez. Alvarez advertises that he is an internationally known psychic medium with a sixth sense, specializing in counseling and “healing.” I chose Alvarez as my first interview subject primarily because of his dozens of five-star reviews. Clients insisted that Alvarez’s readings were “dead on” and “the real deal” but, perhaps just as importantly, they said he was friendly, open, and transparent. For my purposes, that’s ideal.

I met Alvarez at 10:00AM on a Saturday at his psychic studio in Chatsworth, Calif. Noah greeted me and my first impression was that his reviewers were right: he was personable, friendly, and empathetic. I also took a moment to scan his studio, which featured a number of (often conflicting) religious and spiritual symbols. There were dozens of Buddhist statues and monuments and relics – something you might expect from a psychic who also calls himself the “American Buddha” – but there was also a single dramatic statue of Jesus Christ being tortured on the cross. Understanding that Noah was likely trying to appeal to as broad a base as possible in his work, I proceeded to the back room for our discussion.

Continue reading

Letter Urges Hotels To Promote Diversity In Religious Material

In February, I launched a public funding campaign with the goal of purchasing copies of Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings for distribution in hotels, libraries, book stores, and more. Thanks to all of you, we reached (and surpassed) our $1,500 goal and I am now reaching out to hotels in my local area in hopes of getting their permission to place copies alongside their Bibles in each hotel room.

Here is the first draft of the letter I intend to send to hotel owners:

 

Dear hotel proprietor or manager,

I hope you’re well. I’m writing today to inform you of an outreach campaign aimed at providing a balance to the types of information available to hotel patrons.

As you are likely aware, the evangelical Christian group Gideons International is well-known for its efforts to ensure Christian Bibles are distributed in great numbers to hotels all over the world. While I understand that the group’s intentions are likely positive, as a non-Christian and advocate for secularism, I can’t help but see how diversity in reading material would be beneficial for everyone involved.

One option to address this disparity would be to allow other religious organizations to place their sacred books, too. Admittedly, this move may not be very practical. A second action, of course, would be to remove the religious reading material altogether. This would buck tradition, I’m sure, but would keep any group from being excluded and would enable you to perhaps allow Christian patrons to “opt in” to having a Bible placed in their nightstand. If neither of those methods work for you, and you sincerely seek to address this issue, you could also provide secular material to go alongside the Bibles already available.

As the result of a public funding campaign, I’ve recently purchased more than 300 copies of Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings, a critique on biblical literalism with an admittedly provocative title. The book cites chapter and verse throughout and examines the world of Christianity while attempting to refute many of its key principles. Because of the generous donations of hundreds of secular activists and fellow non-believers in the area, I am able to offer you free copies to accompany the Bibles, if you so choose.

Regardless of your action or inaction on this matter, I hope to hear your thoughts on this important and controversial issue.

Yours in reason,
David G. McAfee

Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings

Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings

If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

If You Love Jesus, You Are Religious

By David G. McAfee

It’s perfectly understandable, in my opinion, to find good things in the teachings of Jesus Christ or any other figure, mythical or otherwise. But to base your life on the teachings of Jesus as they are portrayed in the Bible and claim that you are not religious is disingenuous.

“It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!”

Without the religion, without the archaic and flawed holy texts, there wouldn’t be anything for you to manufacture a “relationship” with. Without the wars and forced conversions key to the religion’s spread across the globe, it may have died out long ago like so many others have. If that were the case, you wouldn’t know the characters of Jesus or God or Muhammad or any of the tales and myths associated with a particular faith. Religions concern themselves with preserving and worshiping these myths as realities, without regard to substantial evidence to the contrary.

If not from ancient religious texts, where does one glean knowledge of Jesus’ teachings? Can’t one simply be a good person without doing it in Jesus’ name or because he would have done the same? The fact is that without cultural indoctrination, all of us would be atheists or, more specifically, while many may dream up their own Gods as did our ancestors, they would certainly not be “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” or any other established religion. That’s because, without the texts and churches and familial instruction, there are no independent evidences that any specific religion is true. Outside of the Bible, how would one hear of Jesus? The same goes for every established religion.[1]

More importantly, what are Jesus’ unique teachings that are so crucial as to be valued above those of all others? I often challenge Christians to give an example of any of Jesus’ alleged ideas that were new to humanity, never used by anyone who lived before, without a definitive and novel answer. For many Christians, Jesus is worshiped in such a way that his followers actually change his teachings, sometimes to an extent that his original (biblically-attributed) claims are forgotten or marginalized. It is for this reason that, if a person needs a life advisor, I usually recommend a living person with fluid ideas over archaic and stagnant scriptures for guidance.

What other baggage does Jesus have?

Jesus claimed to be God incarnate  (John 10:30). It is taught in the Bible that “Jesus” and “Yahweh” are the same omnipotent Creator, that the former was simply the latter’s physical form while on earth. This was no doubt a way for Christians to justify the blatant worship and idolization of Jesus, in light of the Old Testament God’s warnings not to worship “other gods” – an idea that is common in the Hebrew Scriptures and is highlighted in the first four of the Ten Commandments, which leave out such atrocities as rape and slavery.

This means that, according to Christian doctrine, and according to the vast majority of modern Christian denominations, Jesus IS God. Jesus is the same jealous and angry God that abhorred homosexuals and condemned them as “an abomination.” He is the same deity that gave instructions on how to beat slaves and the same divine Creator that suggested the stoning of non-believers and disobedient children. You have to accept the good along with the bad… after all, he came not to abolish the Hebrew laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The jealous and angry God that justified the killings of millions and set plagues on first borns is the same God that Christians believe came to earth in Jesus. Whether Christians choose to obey early Old Testament laws or not, the deity hasn’t changed.

“But that’s the Old Testament!”

What we consider “moral” has changed greatly since the days of the Old Testament. The outdated moral laws present in the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate Bronze Age ideals – and it’s understandable that modern Christians distance themselves from that era as much as possible. But to discount the entirety of the Old Testament is to discount the religion’s history and the actions of God “Himself.”

So, before you claim to hate religion and love Jesus, take a look at what Jesus claimed and understand that the Christian religion was built upon those teachings.

David G. McAfee is a journalist and author of Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee attended University of California, Santa Barbara, and graduated with dual-degrees in English and Religious Studies, with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.

"I hate religion, but love Jesus!"

“I hate religion, but love Jesus!”


[1] Quote from Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide To Coming Out as a Non-Believer.

David G. McAfee Interviews A Member of Westboro Baptist Church

David G. McAfee Interviews A Member of Westboro Baptist Church

Religious people claim that it’s just the fundamentalists of each religion that cause problems. But there’s got to be something wrong with the religion itself if those who strictly adhere to its most fundamental principles are violent bigots and sexists.

Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based fringe religious group headed by Pastor Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., has become synonymous with extreme Christian fundamentalism especially as it relates to the group’s attitude toward homosexuals. WBC purports to represent primitive Baptist and Calvinist principles, and its members travel the United States picketing funerals of soldiers, well-known members of the LGBTQ community, and anything else likely to gain media attention. They have held more than 50,000 pickets in more than 915 cities, according to their website.[1]

WBC often preaches against the “God loves us all!” mentality that some cultural or liberal Christians have adopted, instead choosing to highlight the many times in the Bible in which God expressed his “divine hate.” Here are just a few of the church’s frequently cited biblical passages[2] about the hatred of God:

*Leviticus 20:23 – “And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them.”

*Deuteronomy 32:19 – “And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.”

*Psalm 5:5 – “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”

*Romans 9:13 – “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

On Jan. 12, 2014, members of WBC made stops throughout Los Angeles picketing various “Whorehouses,” “Dog Kennels,” and “Child Rapists” also known as liberal protestant and Catholic churches before making it to the Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, where they protested those who will “try and preach Paul Walker into heaven.” During the WBC’s exhibition, I met up with lifetime member Isaac Hockenbarger to ask a few questions about cults, faith, and science.

David G. McAfee: Would you consider the Westboro Baptist Church a cult in any way?

Isaac Hockenbarger: I don’t care what you want to call us. If we’re a cult, well then our charismatic empathic leader is Christ.

McAfee: So, you don’t have a problem with the technical term “cult”?

Hockenbarger: I don’t care what you call us because, quite frankly, what Christ said was “If you love me, the world is going to hate you.” How awful a thing is it to call someone a cult? It’s pretty bad. The world hates us.

McAfee: I for one don’t hate Westboro Baptist or any other church. And there’s a factual definition that determines whether or not it’s a cult, but I argue that any major religion is just a larger version of that.

Hockenbarger: The brainwash of God loves everyone is sad. It’s spelled out so many times in so many different ways across the Bible.

McAfee: Do you think that your sect of Christianity is more biblically literate than the majority of other denominations?

Hockenbarger: I don’t think you can call yourself a Christian without being biblically literate, and it’s an everyday thing. It’s constant learning. The most fundamental law of logic is that if there is but a single counter-example to your theory, you are wrong. As it is written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” We can’t just change definitions of words because we don’t like them. Hated means hated, but we aren’t talking about human hate. We are talking about a fixed determination to punish those who don’t follow his commandments.

McAfee: I agree that the Judeo-Christian god is portrayed in most of the Bible as hating homosexuals, or whatever your version of hating is, but you’re working under the presupposition that Christianity is true and that all that exists. You’re really just working with ancient texts like everybody else.

Hockenbarger: We could work under the presupposition of atheism being true, and what then?

McAfee: Since there’s no evidence to support the existence of any deities or supernatural entities of any kind, not believing should be the default position.

Hockenbarger: We can all think that we’re the smartest people in the world and ‘Stephen Hawking it up’ and what would it gain us?

McAfee: Intelligence, intellect, and education. By pursuing scientific advancement we can understand how the world how it actually it is.

Hockenbarger: If you’re right, so what. If I’m right, you’re screwed. That’s the simplistic version.

McAfee: That’s called Pascal’s Wager, and it’s long been debunked. But the typical wager there would be that you lost nothing. You guys have kind of lost your whole lives, following this really extreme sect.

Hockenbarger: What would you have gained?

McAfee: Living an evidence-based life is great. You don’t just listen to whatever your family tells you, or your culture or anything. You just look at facts.

Hockenbarger: You keep acting like you don’t want to offend me by saying cult, but you tell me I listen to my family. No, I don’t.

McAfee: Just like any Christian, you were born into a family and you listen to them. It’s still indoctrination if it’s a small cult or a big religion. You teach your children something and you don’t allow anything else other than that.

Hockenbarger: That’s a lie. We live absolutely normal lives.

McAfee: Are you encouraged to question your actual faith and interact with people who have left the church?

Hockenbarger: Absolutely, people leave all the time. Most of my family doesn’t belong to the church anymore.

McAfee: And you have nothing against them for that?

Hockenbarger: No, absolutely not. But I’m not buddy-buddy with them.

McAfee: Why not? They’re still your family. Have you been taught not to be “buddy-buddy” with them?

Hockenbarger: Because it’s simple. They went their way, I’m going my way. It’s in the Scriptures.

McAfee: But what if you look at the Scripture from another religion? Why is your religion’s Scripture the “right” one?

Hockenbarger: It’s what you choose to believe, just like you can choose to believe in the Big Bang, or whatever.

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