bad TV, Duggars, Reality TV, religion

Plathville… and Papa Duggar’s dirty dealings in the 80s…

Today’s post will be two-pronged. First, I’m going to write about Welcome to Plathville. Then I’m going to write about J.L. Duggar again. Why? It’s mainly because I have noticed a lot of hits on my previous posts about these two topics. But I also have some comments to make, and it’s also nice not to have to sit here and think about what I want to write. In fact, I even knew last night that today’s post would be on these topics… I love it when that happens. So, let’s dive in, shall we?

Plathville…

I finally started watching Welcome to Plathville in June of this year. I kept seeing people post about this show, which features a very blond family from Cairo, Georgia. Kim and Barry Plath are the parents of nine living children, several of whom are adults. Their toddler son, Joshua, was tragically killed in an accident years ago. He was seventeen months old at the time of his death.

I’ve been watching the most recent season of this show, which remains somewhat compelling, even though it doesn’t look like the Plaths are really all that into “religion” anymore. During the first two seasons, it seemed like they were more of a fundie family. Now, it looks like most of the kids are abandoning religion… or at least they are leaving the hyper-controlled lifestyle they grew up in, courtesy of their parents. I’ve noticed a few swear words this season, as well as more revealing clothing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Anyway, it seemed like in prior seasons, people really seemed to think Kim and Barry Plath were terrible parents. Kim Plath, especially, seemed to get a lot of flak for being super-controlling and for the fact that her toddler son died on her watch.

This season has mostly been about oldest son Ethan and his wife, Olivia, and their estrangement from the family. At the end of season 2, Ethan Plath told his parents that he and Olivia were going to go “no contact”. Olivia and Ethan haven’t had the best relationship, either, and there’s been talk of them separating. Olivia longs to move to a bigger city, away from Ethan’s mother. Ethan likes living in a rural town, in his own house. He also seems to like being near his siblings, even though he doesn’t seem to want to talk to his parents. He especially seems pissed off at his mom, whom he claims is very “controlling”. Having watched Ethan over the past season, I’d say he has a few control issues himself.

The latest trailer.

Meanwhile, younger siblings, Moriah and Micah, who left the family nest at very young ages (in Moriah’s case, even before she was a legal adult), are caught in the middle somewhat. Moriah landed a musical gig, which included Olivia as a keyboard player. Because of Olivia’s ongoing fracas with Kim Plath, there was some conflict. Moriah felt compelled to tell her parents not to attend her concert. Kim decided she was going to show up anyway, with three of Moriah’s siblings.

Ethan saw Kim’s car and went looking for her. He finally figured out that Kim and his siblings were in someone else’s car, listening to the concert, completely out of view of Moriah. Ethan got all pissed off and basically told off his mom. Kim later told Moriah that she wasn’t going to be told where she can and can’t go, and if Moriah is playing a show, she’s going to want to be there.

I was left of two minds as I watched all of this unfold. But before I share my opinions, I also want to say that this whole scenario seemed very contrived to me. The Plaths had a family band, so it’s not like this was really Moriah’s first performance. Yes, it might have been her first solo show, but she’s a seasoned performer. It didn’t look like there was much of a crowd at her “gig”, but as they performed, it didn’t look to me like Moriah and her bandmates had much energy. They didn’t even seem nervous, really… it just seemed kind of forced and scripted, even as Moriah finished her performance and gave sort of a lackluster thanks to the audience.

Aside from that, it seems really uncool that this whole family drama involving Ethan, Olivia, Kim, and Barry was allowed to overshadow Moriah’s solo debut. I think if this truly went down the way it’s depicted on the show, all of them– Ethan, Olivia, and Kim– need to grow the fuck up. At least Barry avoided attending the show, in accordance with his daughter’s wishes.

First off– if Moriah is going to be a performer, she’s going to have to deal with people coming to see and hear her play. Some of those people may not be people she wants to be there. But if she’s in a public venue, that’s part of the deal. Kim Plath was well within her rights to attend the show, even though Moriah (prompted by Olivia) asked her not to come. Kim should not have had to hide in a car if she came for the concert, which was in a public venue. Kim did say that next time, she won’t hide. I don’t blame her.

Secondly– if Olivia is going to be a part of Moriah’s band, she’s going to have to deal with people coming to the shows that she may not like. That’s part of being a professional. I totally get not wanting to be around toxic people, but if it’s that much of an issue for her, she probably ought to opt out of playing with Moriah. She really shouldn’t ask Moriah to tell her mother not to come to her performances. Olivia should not have made her issues with Kim overshadow Moriah’s show. That show wasn’t about Olivia. It was about launching Moriah’s career as a singer-songwriter.

Thirdly– Kim really should have respected Moriah’s wishes, as her husband Barry did. There will be other shows she can attend. Hopefully, Moriah will find someone unrelated to her to play keyboards so her family can come to her shows without issues from Ethan and Olivia.

And finally– Ethan probably should have stayed out of the whole thing. He wasn’t performing. He introduced Moriah, then took it upon himself to play bouncer. Most of the conflict was because of him and Olivia, and it was Moriah’s show. I feel like all four of the “adults” really let Moriah down by letting their interpersonal drama overshadow what should have been an exciting day for Moriah. I hope Moriah will advertise for a new keyboard player so this kind of petty crap won’t be an issue in her subsequent gigs.

This isn’t to say that Olivia is wrong to be upset with Kim, by the way. It’s more to say that this gig wasn’t about Olivia and her issues with Kim. If she wasn’t able to perform for all comers, she probably should have bowed out and/or helped Moriah find someone else to play. But again– I’m sure this entire drama was contrived for the sake of the storyline.

It did appear that Ethan and Olivia were getting along better in this episode… but I also think that if their marriage is going to survive, they probably ought to get off reality TV and move somewhere else. The United States is a big country, and surely they can find a place to live that will appeal to both of them. Or… maybe it really is time for them to cut their losses and find partners that are more suitable.

I think the most adult person on Welcome to Plathville has got to be Lydia. Not only is she very mature and kind; she’s also very pretty. I hope she’s able to come of age unscathed by this reality TV venture. I know a lot of people make bank on these shows, but they seem to cause a lot of families to fall apart. I know… I shouldn’t support this industry by watching.

Now… on to J.L. Duggar

This week, Katie Joy of YouTube’s Without A Crystal Ball shared a revelation about Jim Bob Duggar’s late father, Jimmy Lee (J.L) Duggar. It seems that back in the early 1980s, the elder Mr. Duggar got into trouble with the law and was incarcerated for a period of time. Below is a link to her video about Jim Bob’s dad, and how he wound up behind bars for fraud involving used cars he was selling for other people.

Now I can understand a little bit better why Boob seemed to have so much contempt for his father…

I also noticed in the Duggar Family News group that the group owner, Pickles, wrote a post about J.L. Duggar on her public page, which is open to everyone. It was based on Katie Joy’s video about J.L. Duggar’s past. Pickles asked Jim Bob’s niece, Amy, about the story. Amy wrote back that it was true that her grandfather did do some time. I’m not going to copy and paste the entire post Pickles wrote, but I do want to include this bit, with which I agree:

All in all, Jimmy Lee was human. His issues are all our issues in different form. He probably had an abusive childhood or mental health issues that were never addressed. I wonder if he had a narcissist personality as we see in Josh. Anyway, God sees the big picture. Hopefully Josh’s prison term will come with a professional evaluation and counseling. It may not help but at least he might finally get some real help.

If you want to read the whole thing, you can visit Pickles’ page, which at this writing is still totally open to the public. Just click the link in the paragraph under the video. J.L.’s jail stint, by the way, happened when Jim Bob was in high school, years before Josh was a spark in Boob’s balls. So I’m not sure the elder Duggar’s legal issues directly had that much to do with Josh’s issues, unless Jim Bob’s apparent disdain for his father bled over somehow in how he treats his own children, especially his sons.

As for Katie Joy, I notice a lot of people are ragging on her for being “toxic”, mean, and hypocritical, and a couple of people have said she drinks. I have never seen Katie Joy drunk on her channel, but I also don’t watch everything she does. I’m not involved in any of the dramas involving her. I just watch her Duggar content sometimes because it’s interesting… and a lot of the time, there’s truth behind her commentary. She usually proves it with legal documents, clips from the shows and news, and newspaper reports, or screenshots from people actually in the know.

That being said, anyone who is following this stuff should take everything reported with a grain of salt. The truth is, it’s hard to know exactly what goes on in someone’s life, even if they seem to put “everything” out there. Most of the people commenting, including me, are really just speculating. So always remember that and keep it in mind as you wade through this sordid morass of a story.

No matter what, I still think Jim Bob was a total shit for treating his terminally ill father with so little respect during the last days of his life. That man was dying of brain cancer and Jim Bob turned his last days into reality TV. That was a really rotten way to treat his dad, and not exactly the best example of Christlike behavior, in my opinion. When it comes time for Jim Bob to depart this life, it would serve him right if his children him treated him similarly… although I would not wish that for him. NOBODY deserves that kind of piss poor treatment when they’re on their deathbed, especially on camera. Just my two cents.

Well… the wind has died down; the sun is out; I’ve done the laundry and changed the sheets, so I guess it’s time the dogs got a proper walk. In a few days, we’ll be taking a well deserved (for Bill, anyway) break. I’m looking forward to it, but also a bit nervous for a few reasons. But I look forward to having some new photos and memories… and some stories to share.

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Duggars, religion, sex, slut shamers

Partial repost: There’s something “fishy” about this logic…

Here’s a partial repost from March 2018. It’s only a “partial” repost, because I have matured a bit since 2018 and feel the need to be slightly less vulgar and obscene. Also, it gives me some time to think about today’s “fresh” content. I’m sure I’ll be wanting to post some fresh content after writing about this subject. Or maybe I’ll just want to take a shower.

A few days ago, I saw this photo posted in my Facebook feed.  Someone had shared it in the Duggar Family News group. Here’s a link to an article about this, which led the original poster to get quite a “grillin'”.

Mmmm…. appetizing!

Personally, I did wait until marriage before I lost my virginity.  It wasn’t because I was concerned about how tight my twat was, though.  In fact, I vividly remember worrying about what that first experience would be like, since I didn’t have any sex before I got married.  In my case, being a virgin was less because of a sense of morality and saving myself, and more because of practicality.  I simply never found anyone with whom I wanted sex who also wanted sex with me.  I will admit that I didn’t try very hard.  And Bill, who was a lapsed Mormon during our engagement, wanted to wait until marriage, too. I figured I’d waited that long, I might as well wait for our big day… and then we waited another couple of weeks, because I started my period right after the ceremony. 🙁

I know how Ginny felt… actually, I didn’t need muscle relaxants. Aunt Flow was kind enough to wait until after we were at our B&B.

I truly don’t regret waiting for marriage, but I realize that’s not a choice everyone will want to make.  Moreover, I would much rather people have sex while they are single, than get married simply so they can finally fuck each other.  I can personally attest to how awful and complicated divorce can be, not just for the person who gets divorced, but also family, friends, and significant others.  I am for people being responsible about it and taking precautions to prevent pregnancies and disease transmission.  Then, by all means, have your fun.

That’s right!  It could simply mean that you have a really small penis.

I have not yet seen a post encouraging men to wait until marriage, even though I’m sure that’s encouraged among the religious.  On the other hand, guys like Josh Duggar preach about family values and living the fundie Christian way.  Then they go out and hire strippers and prostitutes.  The truth later comes out in a big scandal.  I suspect that a lot of fundamentalist Christian males are massive hypocrites and liars.  I feel sorry for Josh’s wife and kids because I’m not sure he’ll ever live down what a hypocritical scumbag he was revealed to be. (ETA: remember, this was originally posted in 2018– three years before the world found out how truly vile and disgusting Josh Duggar really is! I feel even more sorry for his kids today, although my sympathy for Anna is slightly less now…)  

If you’re LDS, that could take awhile…

I think it’s pretty gross that the person who made the first post used fish to illustrate how tight a woman’s vagina is after multiple sex partners.  I mean, did that person choose fish on purpose, realizing that a lot of sexually transmitted infections can cause that part of the body to take on a fishy odor?  What’s the old saying?  Fish and visitors stink after three days?  

And what’s with wasting perfectly good fish on an object lesson?  That fish died so the world can get a graphic representation about how women who have sex with many men might make them too “loose” for a man’s pleasure.  There are people starving in the world… people who would love to have fish for dinner.  And finally, the idea of a woman’s genitals being akin to a cold, slimy, fleshy, malodorous piece of fish.  I’m surprised anyone would feel sexy after seeing that.  But I guess that was the point.  

This fish business is even grosser than using licked cupcakes and chewed gum to teach girls about purity.  At least gum and cupcakes are appetizing.  Using raw fish, especially when illustrating a woman’s vagina, is just nasty and disrespectful. 

And just to make this more topical in 2021… I have been stumbling across more and more news pieces about fundie males who turn out to be total deviants and perverts. I am convinced that a higher number of creeps are hiding out in fundamentalist religious cults than in the regular population. If you think about it, those types of very legalistic religiously based groups with high levels of control and power over members are especially ripe for abuse. Females are usually taught in those groups that they are to submit to men at all costs, and if they suffer from abuse or mental health issues, it’s because they aren’t “right” with God and need to repent and pray.

Every day, when I read about these kinds of situations, I am more and more grateful that my parents did not raise me in a cult. I went to a mainstream church, where there was no weirdness and no intrusive interviews about my sexual habits or preferences. No one ever shamed me for what I was wearing. And I was only expected to be in church for an hour (two, if you count Sunday School) a week.

Speaking of Josh Duggar… looks like his most recent court case involving his evident issues with downloading videos and photos of CSA is heading south at a rapid pace. The federal judge keeps turning down his desperate requests to suppress evidence. I think he’s going to regret not accepting a plea deal, because I have a feeling that at the end of his trial, he’s going to be going away for a very long time. I’m generally not a fan of putting people in prison for years on end, but I do think it’s probably appropriate in his case.

In any case, the fish object lesson is particularly disgusting. I thought the wadded up gum, licked cupcakes, and wilted roses used to discourage girls from being “handled sexually” were yucky, but none of them compare to using tuna to demonstrate the condition of a woman’s nether regions. Eeeeew! The guy who made this ought to be ashamed of himself… and he should enroll in an anatomy class, pronto.

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religion, videos

Repost: The Children of God cult…

Here’s another repost from the original blog. I wrote this in January 2019, just before the old blog went “poof”. I am reposting it as/is here, since I recently reviewed Not Without My Sister, a book about sisters who were raised in the Children of God cult. This was the first post I wrote about this cult; I first heard about it on the A&E series mentioned below.

Having now exhausted Leah Remini’s Scientology episodes, at least for now, I moved on to another A&E series hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, called Cults and Extreme Belief.  Since yesterday afternoon, I’ve seen three episodes.  The first two, about NXIVM and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were disturbing enough.  But the third one, about the Children of God (now known as The Family International), made me stop and blog.

Before I watched the show, I had heard a little bit about this religious cult, founded in California in the 1960s by a charismatic preacher named David Berg.  Originally called “Teens for Christ”, this group mostly consisted of runaways and hippies, and preached to each other about salvation, happiness, and a coming apocalypse.  Creepy founder, David Berg, was frequently known by the alias Moses David, and gave himself the titles of “King”, “The Last Endtime Prophet”, “Moses”, and “David”.  His first wife, Jane Miller, married him in 1944 and divorced him in 1970, two years after he started his cult.  Berg married his second wife, Karen Zerby, in 1970.  She is currently leading The Family International, since Berg died in October 1994.

One thing that struck me about this cult is that it was full of musically talented people, children in particular.  One of the children involved was Berg’s granddaughter, Merry, who was also known as Mene.  Merry, who died in her sleep in December 2017, was fifteen days older than I am.  She was musically talented and very ethereal looking, with beautiful blonde hair.  Merry was featured on musical recordings done by Children of God, as well as videos. 

Merry Berg…

Other talented children were also used to make songs about love and sex, and some were also forced to do strip teases.  Aside from that, there was rampant sexual abuse.  Merry was one of the most victimized of the bunch, having endured multiple forced exorcisms as well as extreme abuse on all levels.  She was forced to live in different places, locked in a closet for six months, whipped, tied up, and screamed at by her grandfather, who claimed she was possessed by the devil.

The whole story was very disturbing to me, but I think what really captured my attention was the way these kids looked.  Here they were, maybe ten or eleven years old on these videos from the 70s… a lot of them are probably my contemporaries.  Most of them were attractive and musically gifted, singing so beautifully songs about love.  But the love they sang about was inappropriate and forbidden because it involved sex.  Indeed, these children were commanded to go “flirty fishing” to entice new people to join the cult.  The flirty fishing was more than just flirtation; in fact, it included sex.  David Berg preached sex.

Creepy!

As I watched the above video, I was eerily reminded of the beauty pageants that used to be so popular in the 1980s.  The lyrics sound so wholesome, yet all of the singers look like they’re in a trance.  These teens in the video were likely born into the cult and knew nothing else.  It’s all about worshiping their sick leader, who was supposedly an alcoholic and may have also suffered from mental illnesses.

This clip is from 20/20… a young girl is very upset and repeatedly insists that there’s nothing wrong with sex.

As a child of the 70s and 80s myself, I am also aware of the late actor, River Phoenix, who was extremely famous and much beloved by people of my generation.  Phoenix died in 1993, having overdosed on drugs at The Viper Room in Los Angeles.  He and his similarly talented siblings were raised in this cult when they were very young.  Phoenix once claimed that he lost his virginity at age four, but later said he was kidding.

And A Current Affair also covered this group, explaining “flirty fishing” more.  Imagine the kind of people who were enticed into this group by watching young girls behave sexually.  It sounds like a nightmare.
A 20/20 episode about Children of God.  Not the same one I watched this morning, but also worth viewing.

David Berg unofficially adopted Ricky Rodriguez, nicknaming him Davidito.  He was born in the Canary Islands, the son of Berg’s second wife, Karen Zerby, and a man she “flirty fished”.  In 2005, when Rodriguez was 29 years old, he murdered a woman who had been his nanny and sexually abused him.  Then he killed himself.  Rodriguez was forced into inappropriate sexual relationships when he was a child and developed deep seated resentment toward Berg and Zerby because of the abuse he suffered.

Megyn Kelly speaks to Children of God cult survivor, Christina Babin, who speaks about how difficult it was to be in the cult and how most of the children never got more than a sixth grade education.

I know I heard of this cult before I watched Elizabeth Vargas discuss it this morning.  I remember hearing about River Phoenix and his siblings being in a religious cult when they were young.  It’s tragic how many youngsters were affected by this cult, which was considered a “religion” and granted special privileges.  Many who were raised in The Children of God later committed suicide because they had no foundation from which to launch their lives beyond the cult.

It’s amazing how many cults there are out there and how people get caught up in them.  It’s tragic that children grow up in these organizations and are left with nothing when they come of age.  I may have to find something a little lighter to watch later.

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condescending twatbags, religion, stupid people, TV

Jim Bakker NEEDS your money or they’ll cancel his show!

I remember back in the 1980s, when televangelists were all over the news for various scandals involving sex and fleecing their flocks. Jim Bakker was, in those days, a charismatic leader of the PTL network. He, along with his ex wife, the late Tammy Faye Bakker, had a vision to create a Christian utopia in Heritage USA, a Christian theme park and housing development that never quite came to fruition.

Bakker was later busted by the feds for defrauding his followers. I clearly recall how he went into a fetal position and had to be committed for a psych evaluation while he was on trial for fraud. He was originally sentenced to 45 years in prison, but the sentence was later reduced to eight years. He was paroled on December 1, 1994, after serving almost five years in a minimum security prison in Georgia. A few years later, he met his second wife, Lori. By 2003, he and Lori were back in the televangelism game, having launched a new program, which still runs today.

You’d think people would be wise to Jim Bakker, after his very public sex scandal and fraud case in the late 1980s. But no, he’s still got a platform, and he’s still peddling shit to the gullible. I don’t make a point of keeping up with what he’s doing, although I have to admit, he’s kind of a fascinating character. Below is a very disturbing video, complete with hilarious music, that shows Jim Bakker combining talk of the apocalypse, championing Donald Trump, and selling buckets of slop that can double as toilets or furniture.

You have to see it to believe it. What a fucking charlatan!

In the 1980s, I was kind of dimly aware of what was going on, since I was a teenager at the time. I avoided religion like the plague. But I do remember that Jim Bakker wasn’t the only daring televangelist in those days. In 1987, televangelist Oral Roberts told his followers that he was going to begin an intense prayer and fasting vigil that would last until he raised $8 million for a medical scholarship program. In a letter he sent to his flock, Roberts wrote that God had ordered him to raise the money by the end of March 1987, or he would die. According to an article from the Washington Post dated February 28, 1987:

The evangelist wrote that he will ascend the Prayer Tower at Oral Roberts University to begin praying and fasting.

“If I go from there to Jesus, I will see you in heaven. But I believe that won’t happen, because I believe our God will do this mighty thing and at the end of March, you and I will know the miracle has happened and the Gospel will go to the nations,” he said.

In the end, Roberts managed to raise $9.1 million. He died on December 15, 2009. At least Oral Roberts was raising money for a decent cause, even if the way he did it was highly manipulative and controversial.

Jim Bakker, like Oral Roberts before him, is also looking to raise a lot of money. This week, he told his followers in a panicky tone of voice that his show would be canceled if he didn’t pay what he owes his network. He says that he owes about a million dollars. According to DEADState, Bakker said:

“We’ve lost millions in finances due to the legal battles we’ve fought, losing our ability to receive donations by credit cards for over a year — has left us in a desperate state… But what the Devil has tried to do is silence our voice.”

Bakker continued,

“I’m asking you as a friend and longtime supporter of this ministry, valued partners, will you help us? Turn this wolf away from our door.”

Oh dear! What will we do without Jim Bakker’s show?

Regardless of what I think of Jim Bakker and his sleazy fundraising tactics, I’ve got to admit the man has a lot of moxie. And even though I think he’s a swindler, he does have charisma and a knack for appealing to a certain segment of the population. He’s even entertaining as he pulls the wool over people’s eyes. One of the funniest parts of Vic Berger’s Best of Jim Bakker YouTube video, posted above, is when Bakker tries to convince people that the slop in the bucket is delicious. He’s definitely game for peddling bullshit, and there’s something to be said for that. A lot of fortunes have been made by people who can sell ice to Eskimos.

I think televangelists are a fascinating lot. So many of them push the prosperity gospel, selling the idea that personal wealth is a sign of God’s favor. The whole lot of these evangelists wear expensive clothes, have coiffed hair (or in the case of the late Ernest Angley, outrageous wigs), and wear jewelry. They live in fancy homes, drive pricey cars, and never flinch as they demand “love gifts” for their bogus ministries. So many people buy into the fantasy that all they have to do is pray and send money and they will somehow be “blessed”. Mark Knopfler even wrote a fabulous song about this phenomenon, which his band Dire Straits recorded in 1991…

A beautiful song by Dire Straits… but people often miss the real meaning of this song and take the lyrics seriously. This song is sarcastic, and it’s about evangelists who rip off the gullible. People think that by sending money, they’re buying a “Ticket to Heaven”.

Here are the lyrics to “Ticket to Heaven”

I can see what you’re looking to find
In the smile on my face
In my peace of mind
In my state of grace

I send what I can
To the man from the ministry
He’s a part of heaven’s plan
And he talks to me

Now I send what I can to the man
With the diamond ring
He’s a part of heaven’s plan
And he sure can sing

Now it’s all I can afford
But the Lord has sent me eternity
It’s to save the little children
In a poor country

I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
I got a ride all the way to paradise
I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
All the way to paradise

Now there’s nothing left for luxuries
Nothing left to pay my heating bill
But the good Lord will provide
I know he will

So send what you can
To the man with the diamond ring
They’re tuning in across the land
To hear him sing

I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
Got a ride all the way to paradise
I got my ticket to heaven
And everlasting life
All the way to paradise

As far as I’m concerned, Mark Knopfler is a god. I would much sooner follow him than Jim Bakker. What’s especially funny, though, is that a lot of people think “Ticket to Heaven” is a beautiful song that is literally about going to Heaven. It’s not. It’s an indictment against people like Jim Bakker and his ilk, cheating poor, ignorant, lonely, God fearing, people out of their money. When you think about it, Jim Bakker has a lot in common with Donald Trump. In fact, he is one of Trump’s admirers.

Eeew.

I only watch televangelists to ridicule them and be mildly entertained by their antics. Sadly, a lot of people think these so-called religion peddlers can help them. It’ll be interesting to see if Jim Bakker manages to save his show from oblivion. It’s kind of inspired that Jim Bakker peddles buckets of food and shovels to prepare for the apocalypse… they make handy receptacles for all the bullshit he shovels. We really should start taxing these fake religious motherfuckers.

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book reviews, religion

Reposted review of I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes

Here’s another reposted book review. It was written for Epinions.com on June 14, 2010, and appears here as/is. I’m still thinking about today’s fresh content.

eBay has changed the face of American commerce, making some rather unconventional methods of earning money available to people smart enough to come up with a clever gimmick. Hemant Mehta is one such clever guy. In January 2006, when he was 22 years old, Mehta came up with a very interesting moneymaking proposal. An atheist since he was 14 years old, Mehta held an auction to get eBayers to send him to church.

His proposal read as follows:

I’m a 22-year-old from Chicago. I stopped believing in God when I was 14. Currently, I am an active volunteer for a couple of different national, secular organizations. For one of them, I am the editor of a newsletter that reaches over 1,000 atheist/agnostic college students. I have written several Letters to the Editor to newspapers in and around Chicago, espousing my atheistic beliefs when Church/State issues arose. My point being that I don’t take my non-belief lightly. However, while I don’t believe in God, I firmly believe I would immediately change those views if presented with evidence to the contrary. And at age 22, this is possibly the best chance anyone has of changing me.

So here’s my proposal. Every time I come home, I pass this old Irish church. I promise to go into that church every day– for a certain number of days– for at least an hour each visit. For every $10 you bid, I will go to the Church for 1 day. For $50, you would have me going to mass every day for a week.
 (15)

Mehta continues by promising to go to church willingly and keep an open mind, yet not saying or doing anything inappropriate. He offers to volunteer with the church and interact with the people of the church and do his best to learn about the churchgoers’ beliefs. He also promises to maintain a diary, take photos, or secure any other type of proof the winning bidder desires in order to uphold his end of the bargain.

Proving that Americans love a good gimmick and are willing to pay for it, Mehta was successful in finding someone to pay him to attend church. The winning bidder of his auction was Jim Henderson, a minister from Seattle, Washington, who paid $504 to get Mehta to attend church. Mehta donated the money to the Secular Student Alliance, one of the organizations Mehta was involved with when he was a student.

Instead of just attending the old Irish church, however, Henderson opted to have Mehta try a variety of different churches and maintain his impressions on Henderson’s Web site, http://www.offthemap.com. And Mehta did make good on his end of the deal, visiting churches in four different states that ranged from mega-sized to small and intimate. Mehta’s eBay experiment led to his decision to write his 2007 book, I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Athiest’s Eyes.

My thoughts

This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be when I decided to buy it. I was under the impression that Mehta’s memoirs of an atheist sitting in church would be about just that… sitting in church. But it turns out I Sold My Soul on eBay is also about what makes an atheist tick. He offers some commentary on the atheist movement, as well as some insight as to why he gave up Jainism, the faith Mehta grew up in.

Mehta’s eBay experiment led him to attend some very well known megachurches, to include Ted Haggard’s New Life Church and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church. Mehta offers his observations of what it was like for him as a non-believer. While I’m no atheist, I can understand where he was coming from, particularly when he writes of his experiences in the megachurches, a burgeoning American phenomenon that I personally find a big turn off. That being said, not all of Mehta’s observations are negative. He has good things to say about Joel Osteen, going as far as to quip “I may be an atheist, but I love Joel” (123). Based on Osteen’s constant presence on television over the past few years, so do a lot of other Americans.

Toward the end of the book, Mehta offers his thoughts on both what works and what’s wrong with typical Christian church services. I didn’t agree with all of Mehta’s insights; for example, he says he wishes there was less singing. I don’t attend church regularly anymore, but one of the one things I do enjoy about church services is the music. Mehta also complains that a lot of Christians have an intolerant attitude toward atheists.  I can agree with that statement.  On the other hand, Mehta also observes that a lot of churches offer valuable community outreach, which he claims to find commendable, and some of the pastors he met made sure their messages were very relevant.  The pastors who kept their messages useful to Mehta today stood the best chance of getting him to change his mind about religion and go back to church.

At the end of the book, Mehta writes an interesting chapter about what it would take to get him to convert. He writes that he still has unanswered questions about Christianity, though at this point, he’s still a devout atheist. As I was reading this chapter, I started to wonder why it should matter to most people whether or not Mehta chooses to believe in God. But then it occurred to me that for many devout Christians, it really does matter. And so, for those people, Mehta’s last words may be the most compelling in the book. I’m sure former teen heart-throb Kirk Cameron, who has famously become a devout Christian and even ambushed Mehta on a radio program, would want to know how to get him to believe and be “saved”.

This book includes a guide for discussion groups. I’m sure the guide is very useful for those who want to read this book as a group and toss around some ideas afterward. Mehta also offers some notes at the end of the book with clarifications and more resources, along with an invitation to join his personal blog, http://www.friendlyatheist.com.

Overall

I liked this book. I guess I would have enjoyed it more if it had been more focused on just the eBay auction and was written more like a story instead of a progress report, but I did find Mehta’s observations intriguing. Mehta has a friendly, honest, engaging voice; he’s intelligent and seems to have an open mind, and that’s very refreshing. One thing potential readers should know is that Mehta mostly confines his church attendance to Protestant denominations, which may or may not have affected his opinions.

I would recommend I Sold My Soul on eBay to those who are interested in learning more about Atheism, as well as those who find religion stimulating. I will warn, however, that this book takes a broader approach than I was expecting. It’s not as much as a memoir as I was thinking it would be, which may or may not be appealing to other readers.

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