While attending BYU, I was in a conversation with a group of about 10-12 fellow students. We were discussing which religion we would join if we weren't Mormon. An interesting exercise, to be sure. Most said something about various Protestant denominations like Methodists or Seventh-Day Adventists. A few mentioned Baptists or Evangelists. I think someone on the fringe even said Buddist. No Catholics, though. Every response was met with comments like, "Oh ya, I like them," or "They really try to follow the Bible." That is, until they got to me. My response was: "If I wasn't Mormon I would probably be an Atheist, because I can't take any other religion seriously." This is one of the few times that an entire group of people has actually boo'd an idea of mine. Some one even said, "Atheists are dumb."
The reason I bring this up is not to refute the statement that atheists are dumb, or to rub my atheism in their faces--that would be dumb. I mention this is because, to me, in order for any religion to be viable, it has to be consistent with reason and science (at the time, I believed Mormonism did exactly this). Any religion which defies science rather than seeking reconciliation is unjustified, and, therefore, "dumb." I didn't know of any other religion which sought such reconciliation. Every protestant I grew up with vehemently opposed evolution and the big bang, so I couldn't take them seriously. Besides, speaking in tongues is just too silly. So, when asked which religion I would join, if not Mormonism, I was at a loss. They all seemed equally ridiculous to me. And since dis-belief is the default position, that is where I fell.
Because I hadn't really considered Atheism in depth, yet, I didn't think to ask my fellow students why they thought it was "dumb." I wouldn't miss such an opportunity now.
Evangelists are among the fastest growing Christian denominations in America, with estimates as high as 7% growth per year. Mega-churches (2000+ weekly attendence) have become more common, especially in Southern states. I find it fascinating that people will flock to watch charismatic preachers run around a stage, perform "miracles," utter some passages of scripture, and ask for donations every 15 minutes. How do they not see the obvious scam? Perhaps this is similar to how Joseph Smith gained members in the mid-1800's. People long for leadership. Charismatic people are often thrown into these positions at the request of those looking to be lead. Others just take advantage. I suppose this is normal.
One of the most notorious (i.e. "popular") Evangelists is Ted Haggard. I don't want to dwell too much on him, but he has been on quite a rollercoaster the last few years by being on President Bush's speed-dial, condemning gays, being caught with a male prostitute, going to "therapy" and claiming to be "cured," admiting to be a "heterosexual with issues," admiting to be bi-sexual (baby steps), starting a new ministry, and somehow keeping his wife (a book deal may have helped). So, here are some of my favorite and most revealing Ted Haggard clips:
Richard Dawkins interview:
Haggard's response to the Richard Dawkins interview:
After the sex-scandel:
And finally, I showed you all of that, so I could show you this: