Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Mercy Ministries has changed it’s name in New Zealand to A Girl Called Hope but it’s still the same old Mercy.

I can’t see any reason they would do this other than to try and hide from the negative publicity now associated with the name Mercy Ministries in Australia.

As the official A Girl Called Hope website states this ministry still has “strong ties” to Mercy Ministries and Nancy Alcorn. Clearly this is just Mercy Ministries with a different name. Perhaps Mercy thought that simply rebranding their product would be enough to silence it’s critics? The official website goes on to say:

“A Girl Called Hope is based on the work of Mercy Ministries which was founded by Nancy Alcorn in America in 1983. Having worked with troubled youth for eight years; Nancy gained insight into the reasons why social problems exist, particularly in young women.

The first home was opened in Monroe, Louisiana, this then extended to Nashville, St. Louis and Sacremento, California in the United States. Mercy Ministries has expanded internationally with homes in England, Canada and here in New Zealand.”

There is no mention at all of the Australian homes they’ve opened and then closed; no mention of the compensation payout; the lies they told the media; the thousands of women who’s lives were damaged; or the fact they only changed the name after the Australian home closed.

I’m sure any woman turning to A Girl Called Hope for help would like to know these important facts.

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Regular readers will have read my views on Mercy Ministries and their abhorrent methods. It is still the case that most of the information out there about Mercy Ministries is their own PR rubbish. All over the world people are not being told about the many, many women who were made WORSE by Mercy instead of better.

So I have created The Truth About Mercy as a place where people can read about some of the harrowing experiences of those who’ve been to Mercy.

This week’s news, that the homophobic couple who refused a gay couple entry to their hotel have lost their court case, is a victory for common sense. In 2011 the law is ruler. Not religion; not an ancient superstition; not the ideas of our ancestors; the law! I am so thankful that our lawmakers have created provisions to protect people like the gay couple in question.

At the heart of this case is a very simple question: should the rights of gay people be more important than those of the religious? In short, my opinion is that YES they should be. Basing your life on an ancient book is clearly a choice whereas sexuality is a natural part of who we are.  I know the religious try and claim that their religion is part of “who they are” but there’s no escaping the fact that they have chosen to follow it. If I choose to follow the ways of witchcraft do I have special rights? Of course not. Religion is extra special apparently.

The fact remains that this Christian couple have chosen to use their home as a hotel and invite the public in. In doing so they surrender their right to pick and choose who they let in and under what circumstances.  Nobody is forcing them to allow things they don’t agree with to occur in their home. They are more than free to stop using their home as a hotel should they not be able to do so without compromising their dark age beliefs.

It’s great this has happened in the UK for in most other countries the church still has an iron grip on the judiciary and the religious would have probably won. Before moaning about how they are nearing financial ruin, perhaps these narrow-minded bigots should consider stopping being homophobes and take a look how stupid their defence is: “Excuse me Mr Judge, but I broke the law because the book told me to!”

Idiots

“Mystic Monk” Dave Vaughan brings his weird religion to the Big Brother house and offends people with his homophobic views.

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Big Brother is upon us again as the final series gets under way. There’s plenty of bad press given to Big Brother but I’ll happily admit that I am a fan!

To me Big Brother has always been interesting as a way to look into how people interact with each other and form relationships. I can’t help but be interested by the concept of taking a load of people who are polar opposites of each other and locking them in a house with nowhere to escape for 3 months.

This year Channel 4 have chosen a classic in the form of Dave Vaughan. Dave runs a “church” called the New Ecstatics in Wales and believes that he can get “drunk” on the “holy spirit”. Let’s make this clear, Dave thinks that he can spontaneously become intoxicated on God’s joy. He also, like most Christians, believes that people should burn in hell simply for being attracted to the same sex. This particular view has already gained him some nominations and scorn.

It is an important point to note that Dave spent many years on drugs, taking the likes of acid and speed. It seems clear to me that this has affected his brain and is responsible for his delusions!

Dave Vaughan is part of a fairly new movement within the Christian church. The “head” of the movement is John Crowder, another man who’s done a lot of acid and “met” Jesus whilst tripping. Crowder then when on to start a movement which uses drink and drug references when talking about God. They like to get “jacked up on God”, “toke the holy ghost”, “snort lines of God” , “drink the wine of God” and “smoke the cross pipe”. It’s pretty obvious these former drug users haven’t let go of their desire to be high and have simply substituted it for religion.

Regular readers of this blog will be all to familiar with my opinions on Christianity, the grip it has on the world and the damage it causes. I’d be ecstatic myself if there was no such thing. Ultimately, however, it is up to the individual what he chooses to believe. If Dave is so mentally unstable that he genuinely believes what he says then he probably needs help more than scorn.

However, it’s not just Dave who is affected. His children have been brought up in this strange environment and, not surprisingly, believe just as he does. It is wrong to pass on your mental illness to your children and I have made my opinion on brainwashing children with religion clear here.

The housemates in the BB house seem oblivious to the extent of Dave’s mental illness. Indeed this is not surprising as he’s kept some of his more extreme views quiet, I suspect if they knew just how weird he was they’d be keeping their distance.

There is a positive to Dave being in the house though, as long as he’s there he’s demonstrating to the whole country how screwed up the religious can be!

Firstly I’d like to apologise for the lack of updates recently. Various situations in my family life have interfered with the time I usually give to my blog.

The Guardian today reported that the Advertising Standards Authority recently saw a 10% rise in complaints.

Near the top of their complaints list were the advertising campaigns from both the British Humanist Association and the Christian Party.

The Christian Party’s ads, which arrogantly stated “There definitely is a God – So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life” were a response to the British Humanist Association’s “There probably is no God – So stop worrying and enjoy your life”.

Not the difference there: probably. I’m constantly amazed at the level of delusion and arrogance from the religious; that they believe they know there definitely is a God. I don’t believe there is a God and I’ll gladly explain why but I know I can never say there definitely is not.

What is interesting is the vigour at which the Christian campaigners tried to stop the original atheist campaign. They tried to argue that the claims broke advertising code and could not be substantiated. Thankfully the ASA told them where to go and said they couldn’t intervene without being required to decide on the existence of God.

The Christians then, when faced with defeat, retaliated by making claims that are even more difficult to substantiate: that God “definitely” exists. Funny how one minute they’re complaining and the next they’re going even further than those they were complaining about. It’s significant that the Christian ad topped the list while the atheism ad came sixth. Maybe they shouldn’t have said “definitely”.

The fact both of these ads came high on the list shows that in this country we really don’t like talking about religion. We want to keep it private and don’t want to think about the realities of the universe. These realities clearly show us that all the main religions are human creations with no basis in fact and this raises uncomfortable questions for many. We definitely don’t like being reminded when we look at a bus.

I hope more of these ads emerge. They raise consciousness and get people talking. I have no doubt that if both camps do advertise more the atheists will continue their respectful stance in acknowledging there is no definite answer; and the religious loons will continue proclaiming they absolutely, totally, utterly, definitely know that God exists and the sooner we join their religion the happier we’ll be.

Imagine a school where every child, regardless of background, is forced to worship Jesus by their teachers and where children learn about no other religion than Christianity. In this school kids answer science exam questions about Adam and Eve and are slapped by teachers if they do something wrong. Sex education is limited to telling the kids they should stay celibate until they’re married. Oh, and they must marry the opposite sex only. If asked about the rights and wrongs of homosexuality, teachers are required to condemn it and inform the child it is an inappropriate choice of lifestyle.

The picture I’ve just painted sounds like Britain a few decades ago. It sounds like a version Britain most of us have now turned our backs on. But I have not just taken you back in time, I have taken you to the Britain of Reverend George Hargreaves.

Who? I hear you say. George Hargreaves is a millionaire songwriter and also the leader of the Christian Party, a right-wing extremist Christian party. Ironically, George made his fortune by writing “So Macho”, the huge gay anthem of the 80s, in his days of being a ‘sinner’.

At this weeks election the Christian party received more than 18,000 votes. In previous elections their numbers have been even higher, getting more than 50,000 at the European election in 2005 and more than 26,000 in the 2007 Scottish election. Granted this is nowhere near the half a million BNP votes cast this week but it still shows there is a significant amount of people in favour of this version of Britain.

This is proof, if ever we needed it, of the need for a separation of religion and politics. A quick glance at the Christian Party manifesto provides yet more proof:

  • The Christian Party would attempt to repeal discrimination laws, including laws that protect people from racism and homophobia.
  • They would reintroduce Section 28 forcing teachers to condemn homosexuality.
  • They would put a blanket ban on anybody not in a heterosexual marriage adopting.
  • They would attempt to completely ban abortion.
  • They would force the worship of the Christian God and stop schools teaching about other religions.
  • They would leave sex education to parents and  teach secondary school kids that “chastity before marriage” is “the best and safest sexual practice”.
  • They would bring back “supervised corporal punishment” in schools.
  • They would bring back parent’s right to beat their children (spare the rod spoil the child and all that) including giving parents the right to “apply sanctions regarding sexual behaviour”, whatever that means.
  • They would force people to vote, and fine them if they don’t.

It’s important to point out that this lunatics will never get enough support to take over the country, the BNP are nowhere near getting any power and they got 500,000 votes this time round. But that is not the point. If we reform our voting system, in favour of  proportional representation, then these people would have even more chance of getting seats. It only takes one seat in parliament to start exerting influence and the religious right-wing is growing, in this country and all over the world.

Britain has grown up. We have accepted equality above dogma. We have moulded our moral and legal positions to suit the needs of society and not to fulfill the mandate of an ancient story book.

I say Good riddance to the Christian Party and their depraved policies.

To many Christians Benny Hinn is an ‘annointed’ healer with the ability to perform miracles. To those capable of logical thinking he is a fraudster and a cheat.

Above: Toufik Benedictus “Benny” Hinn

Many people in history have defrauded the innocent. Recently we were shocked by the extent at which Bernard Madoff defrauded so many people out of $65 billion. Benny Hinn is no different. Whilst he may not have stolen as much as Madoff he is no less deceptive as far as I am concerned and I believe the total amount stolen by Hinn is closer to that of Madoff than people think.

Many will be familiar with Benny Hinn, if you are I apologise for the lesson, but still many are not, especially in the UK. So some background: Since the 1980’s Hinn has been running ‘Miracle Crusades’, large gatherings in stadium sized venues where tens of thousands, and sometimes millions, of hungry miracle seekers gather hoping to be healed. He is a loud and vocal advocate of the ‘word of faith’ teaching which claims that God wants his followers to have material wealth and this can be achieved by giving financially to the church.

Hinn, born in Israel, started his ministry after moving to the US and quickly created a name for himself as one of the most successful televangelists in the world. He has likely ‘ministered’ to tens of millions of people in person and possibly been watched on TV by billions more.

In case you are not aware, Benny Hinn’s ‘crusades’ go something like this: they are held in stadiums where audience numbers are in the thousands; Hinn usually emerges (donned in a pure white suit) to a powerful chorus sung by a massive choir; he ‘preaches’ his version of the Bible; then he asks God to heal the sick (accompanied by powerful emotional music) and invites those who think they’ve been healed onto the stage; then he tells the audience how God has healed the people on stage before pushing them over onto the floor and claiming it is the ‘holy spirit’. During these services he asks attendees to ‘sow a seed’ into the ministry so they can continue to ‘do God’s work’. Not surprisingly many of them do.

Benny Hinn is now a fabulously wealthy man. We’re not talking just a little bit wealthy, I mean filthy rich wealthy. This had led many to accuse him and his family of profiting from the donations of the public. To those of us with any experience of the evangelical Christian movement (and I count myself amongst those) this personal profiting is no surprise. I spent many years in a church that, compared to Benny Hinn’s, is small fry and I saw for myself how the poor members of the church gave faithfully and the pastor drove a brand new Porsche. This is not something new. The scale of Benny Hinn’s luxurious life is, however, a little shocking.

To put this into perspective let me give you some numbers. This information is available to anyone willing to search for it, I haven’t cited sources simply because I’ve had to dig around in lots of places to pull all of this together and it wouldn’t be feasible, but you are free to check yourself and should I be wrong let me know! So yeah, the numbers:

  • Benny Hinn Ministries has an annual turnover  in the region of $100 million, add this up over years and the scale of this fraud starts to become apparent
  • Benny Hinn has use of a private jet purchased for an estimated $30 million which costs around $100,000 a month to run
  • Benny Hinn was given, free of charge, a 7,000 sq ft, 7 bedroom, 8 bathroom mansion overlooking the Pacific valued at over $10 million
  • Ex staff members have spoken of lavish shopping trips in designer stores like Versace and Louis Vuitton
  • Over 4 weeks in 2003 Hinn charged $6,000 worth of clothes to the ministry
  • Hinn has run up restaurant bills in the thousands whilst travelling
  • Hinn regularly books himself and his entourage into the presidential suites of hotels whilst travelling
  • On one trip to Italy recently receipts were submitted totalling $6,000 for “transportation”
  • At the same hotel in Italy he stayed in the presidential suite which the hotel lists as costing $10,000 a night.
  • Hinn hired the presidential suite of the Lanesborough Hotel in London at a cost of $3,000 per night
  • He submitted receipts totalling $6,000 for “incidentals including chauffeur services and ‘In Room Tea’ on the same trip to London
  • Hinn tipped hotel staff a total of $4,500 with the largest individual tips being for $1,000 (this appears to be common practice and has happened at other hotels)
  • Petty cash receipts show gifts exceeding $1,000 being given to Hinn’s daughter with no reasons specified
  • Hinn paid his daughter’s fiance $2,550 to babysit his daughter
  • Over a month in 2003 petty cash receipts totalling $23,000 were paid to Benny Hinn and his wife
  • A further $25,000 “to accompany Pastor Benny Hinn for anaheim crusade” is also detailed in receipts.

Much of this information came to light following a CBS program about Benny Hinn’s financial habits. He was invited to take part but couldn’t because God told him not to, apparently. These are just some of the figures that people have been able to gather on Benny Hinn’s ministry and thanks is owed to ex-staff who have ‘leaked’ them. This is all we have to go on as at every opportunity Benny Hinn resists being open about his finances.

It is pretty clear to me that he is living the high life off the back of donations. How else does he have all this money? He freely spends ministry money as if it is his own.

Not surprisingly all of this lavish piss-taking has raised some concerns with the powers that be. Senator Grassley, of the United States Senate Committee On Finance, wrote to Hinn a few years ago demanding he be honest about how he was spending ministry money. As a religious organisation Benny Hinn Ministries gets massive tax breaks, doesn’t have to publish its financial records, and therefore shouldn’t allow someone to personally profit to such a degree as Benny Hinn has.

It should be noted here that Benny Hinn is not alone in this. His lifestyle mirrors that of many other well known Christian personalities and Senator Grassley raised concerns with some of others too.

  • Bishop Eddie Long receives a salary of an estimated $1 million, lives in a 9 bathroom mansion set in 20 acres and drives a Bentley
  • Rev. Creflo Dollar owns 2 Rolls Royce’s and has a $1 million home in Atlanta and a $2.5 million New York apartment
  • Joyce Meyer Ministries allegedly spent $23,000 on a piece of furniture (she has denied this claiming it was a mistake on the receipt), $11,000 on a french clock and $19,000 on a pair of vases for the Ministry HQ.
  • Kenneth Copeland has his own plane and airport

Aside from the obvious financial wealth Benny Hinn has accumulated and the questions this raises about how charity money should be spent there is yet another issue which presses me.

Benny’s miraculous claims have never been verified. Nobody has ever examined and confirmed any of the miracles and many people who claimed to have been healed have subsequently discovered they’re still ill. To me and my atheist mind it seems pretty obvious that all this is fake, but it is an inescapable fact that many people believe Benny is the real deal. He has made a whole host of shockingly incorrect ‘prophecies’, whilst in a trance-like state supposedly connected directly to God, which add yet more weight to the proof that he is a fraud. Some of these include:

  • In 1989 Benny prophesied that in the next few years a short man would emerge as a dictator and take over the world, that he would be the anti-christ and then Jesus would return
  • 1990’s Benny predicts that America would get its first female president and she’d destroy the country
  • 1995 God will destroy America’s homosexual community with fire
  • He predicted that Fidel Castro would die in the 90’s
  • That earthquakes would destroy much of the east cost of the US in the 90’s

These are not the only stupid prophesies he’s made but I need not list any more, you get the picture.

I’m avoiding getting into Biblical theology but will go so far as to say the overwhelming majority of the Christian world reject most of Benny’s teaching. He is obsessed with demonstrating the most visually impressive ‘signs and wonders’ and it is all part of his show (he waves his arms about screaming and shouting for God’s “fire” to reign down. Benny has never performed a miracle in front of anybody: he’s never caused an arm to grow or a dead man to wake up. All of his miracles rely on human interpretation: “I couldn’t hear properly and now I can”; “my sight wasn’t very good and now it’s great”; “I had a pain, now it’s gone” etc. It’s easy to apply logic and watch this show fall apart.

I am reminded of the travelling ‘doctors’ of times gone by. Men would tour around setting up stages in towns and telling the locals they had miracle potions. They would make massive claims about their abilities and say they could cure anything! They’d place insiders in the crowd to ‘test’ the potions and having demonstrated the miracle the locals would flock to get their bottle! Benny Hinn is exactly the same.

The people in the audience go expecting a miracle. They don’t need to see a dead man get up to be convinced. They trust the power of God and they trust the testimony of others. This, coupled with the emotional atmosphere created at the meeting contributes to what can only be described as religious hysteria.

People go see Benny because they are desperate, many of them live in poor countries where healthcare is basic. They go because they need a miracle and they believe he can give it to them. When they get there he asks them to give him money. He even goes so far as to tell them God is more likely to “bless” them if they “sow” into his ministry. So they give up the little money they have in the hope they’ll be healed, and off Benny runs into the horizon a little bit wealthier, the people no healthier.

Some would say Benny Hinn was just clever, that he’s seen an opportunity and seized it, but I cannot accept this. Regardless of how gullible his followers are, and I must say they are as gullible as it gets, they are still being conned. They give their money believing that Benny is trying to do good when in reality he knows exactly what he’s doing and his motivation is greed. His conscience clearly doesn’t keep him up at night and for that he is evil.

If we allow Benny Hinn to continue for another 20 years lying and conning people then I have no doubt he will become the most successful con-artist of all time (with the exception of Jesus).