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Death of snake handling preacher shines light on lethal Appalachian tradition
Mack Wolford and his father were both serpent handlers who died of snake bites.
June 1st, 2012
09:19 PM ET

Death of snake handling preacher shines light on lethal Appalachian tradition

By Julia Duin, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Mack Wolford, one of the most famous Pentecostal serpent handlers in Appalachia, was laid to rest Saturday at a low-key service at his West Virginia church a week after succumbing to a snake bite that made headlines across the nation.

Several dozen family, friends and members of Wolford's House of the Lord Jesus church in tiny Matoaka filled the simple hall for the service, which lasted slightly more than an hour. At the request of pastor's widow, Fran Wolford, media were forbidden inside the building.
Wolford's own dad was a serpent handler who died from a snake bite in 1983.

Mack Wolford, who was 44,  was bitten by his yellow timber rattlesnake at an evangelistic event in a state park about 80 miles west of Bluefield, in West Virginia’s isolated southern tip.

He enjoyed handling snakes during worship services, but it’s a tradition that has killed about 100 practitioners since it started in the east Tennessee hills in 1909.

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In recent years, Wolford feared the tradition was in danger of dying for lack of interest among people in their 20s and 30s. It’s why he drove to small, out-of-the-way churches around Appalachia to encourage those who handle snakes to keep the tradition alive.

“I promised the Lord I’d do everything in my power to keep the faith going,” Wolford said last fall in an interview I conducted with him for the Washington Post Sunday magazine. “I spend a lot of time going a lot of places that handle serpents to keep them motivated. I’m trying to get anybody I can get.”

He hadn’t much hope for churches in West Virginia, where serpent handling is legal. Some surrounding states, including Tennessee and North Carolina, have outlawed it. He had his eyes on a Baptist church near Marion, North Carolina, where, he said, “there’s been crowds coming” and its leaders wanted to introduce serpent handling, the law be damned.

“I’m getting the faith started in other states, where I am seeing a positive turnout,” he said. “Remember, back in the Bible, it was the miracles that drew people to Christ.”

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Wolford wanted to travel to the radical edges of Christianity, where life and death gazed at him every time he walked into a church and picked up a snake. That’s what drew the crowds and the media; that’s what gives a preacher from the middle of nowhere the platform to offer the gospel to people who would never otherwise listen.

“Mack was one of the hopes for a revival of the tradition,” said Ralph Hood, a University of Tennessee professor who’s written two books on snake handlers and is probably the foremost academic expert on their culture. “However, I am sure others will emerge, as well.”

Indeed, others are emerging, including a growing group of 20-somethings clustered around churches in La Follette, Tennessee, and Middlesboro, Kentucky. Their individual Facebook pages show photos of poisonous snakes and “serpent handling” appears on their “activities and interests” lists.

Pentecostal serpent handlers - they use "serpent" over "snake" out of deference to the Bible - are known for collecting dozens of snakes expressly for church services.

At church, they’re also known to ingest a mixture of strychnine - a highly toxic powder often used as a pesticide - and water, often from a Mason jar. These same believers will bring Coke bottles with oil-soaked wicks to the church so they can hold flames to their skin.

Key to understanding this culture are a pair of verses from the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament: “And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mainstream Christians - Pentecostals included - do not believe Mark 16:17-18 means that Christians should seek out poisonous snakes or ingest poisonous substances.

But experts say that several thousand people – exact numbers are hard to come by – in six Appalachian states read the verse differently. Known as “signs following” Pentecostals, they see a world at war with evil powers and believe it’s a Christian’s duty to take on the devil by engaging in the “signs.”

Thus, a typical service in one of their churches will also include prayers for healing and speaking in tongues.

But it’s the seeming ability to handle poisonous snakes without dying from their bites that makes these Pentecostals believe that God gives supernatural abilities to those willing to lay their lives on the line. If they are bitten, they refuse to seek antivenin medication, believing it’s up to God to heal them.

At the Church of the Lord Jesus in Jolo, West Virginia - one of the country’s most famous “signs following” churches - a group of worship leaders passed around a rattlesnake at a service last year on Labor Day weekend. The snake twisted as it was passed from man to man.

The women clapped, and one tried handling the serpent but quickly gave it back to a man. The pastor, Harvey Payne - who has never been bitten by a serpent - posed for the cameras, the reptile twisting and curling.

“My life is on the line,” he exulted. “All Holy Ghost power!”

If a believer is bitten by a snake and dies, these Pentecostals reason, it is simply their time to go.

“It devastated me,” one Tennessee serpent handler confided to me about Wolford’s death last week. “It just shook my very foundation. But (handling snakes) is still the Word of God.”

Vicie Haywood, Wolford’s mother - whose husband died 29 years ago from a rattlesnake bite during a worship service - is heartbroken. But she has no doubts about the righteousness of serpent handling. “It’s still the Word, and I want to go on doing what the Word says,” she told the Washington Post on Wednesday.

Last fall I asked Wolford if handling serpents wasn’t tempting God, a common question from mainstream Christians.

“Tempting God is disbelief in God, not belief in Him,” he said, citing an incident in the Old Testament in which Moses slapped his staff against a rock to provide water in the desert rather than speak to the rock as God had commanded.

By using his own resources – a stick – rather than counting on God to act when Moses simply spoke to the rock, the patriarch was condemned for lack of belief and forbidden to enter the Promised Land.

He added that he regularly drinks strychnine during worship services, to show God has power over poison.

“In my life I’ve probably drunk two gallons of it,” Wolford said. “Once you drink it, there is no turning back. All your muscles contract at once. Your body starts stiffening out. Your lungs; it’s like you can’t breathe.”

He’d gotten sick from strychnine a handful of times. “I was up all night struggling to breathe and move my muscles and repeating Bible verses that say you can ‘drink any deadly thing and it won’t hurt you,’ ” Wolford told me, recounting one episode. He said a voice in his head taunted him as he struggled to recover.

“The devil said, ‘You’re going to die, you’re going to die,’ ” he said. “You can’t go to the hospital. There is not a lot they can do. But (seeking medical help) means you’re already starting to lose faith.”

After he was bitten last Sunday, Wolford may have thought his faith would bring him through that trauma, as it had so many times before. He had four spots on his right hand from where copperheads had bitten him.

When he finally gave his family permission to call paramedics, about eight hours after being bitten, he must have known his battle was near over. By the time he arrived at the local hospital in Bluefield, he was dead.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Death

soundoff (7,439 Responses)
  1. bruce

    never put your GOD to test stupid

    June 3, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  2. Worship Poseidon

    Republicans are uber intelligent.

    June 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  3. imnotasheepl

    Maybe we hope the people from Westboro Baptist Church take up the practice.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • No Way Yahweh

      Haha! We can only "have faith" that they will!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • Roibarido

      Maybe if we tell them Gays hate snakes they will.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      @Roiberido

      maybe you should give it a try instead.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Dr. Evil

      Actually, I have just sold them the "Amazing Gay-Be-Gone Swimming Pool, Complete With Special Jesus Fish." When all the Westboro people swim, gays wil be gone forever!!! From their consciousness, anyway, because the fich are very hungry foul-tempered Great Whites with fricking lasers on ther heads.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  4. Roibarido

    Current Ancient Alien theorist hold that at least two groups of Aliens came to Earth during the formation of our religions. One group the rather benign Gray Aliens really were trying to help mankind. Another Alien group came here to mine our Gold, chlorofluorocarbon, protein and other resources and used humans as Slaves. These two Alien Groups were seen as God(s) which explains the many contradictions in the Bible and other religious text.
    This also explains why many cultures belief in multiple gods.
    Actually the Mayans specifically believed that their Gods came from the Skies and knew of a Star in the Orion belt around the time of Christ that modern man only discovered less than 100 years ago. They believed all mankind came from that star, Strangely enough just last year an earth like planet was discovered in that star system.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • antichristian

      that is pretty dumb. if this was true, aliens would have told us that the world is round and not flat.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Ronald

      You have been watching way too much Stargate. I like the show, but you're taking it too far, lol.

      June 3, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  5. Arcangelw7

    Pat, I want to know why you are not at the Bilderberg Meeting or even reporting on it? Why as a Christian, are you not standing up to this evil in this world with Prayers & Leadership, shining Gods light on their Darkness being executed in secret right now as the Global Agenda?

    You should be rallying people peacefully to be there with the protesters and leading them in prayers for this world and Country, and binding up the Principalities and Powers of Darkness as they discuss our demise right in your own backyard. Why is there not even a whisper of this event coming from CNN and who do you really stand up for, the Globalists or God? Shame on you!

    June 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • jungleboo

      You are consumed with conspiracy theory, while the rest of us are speaking our conscience. Has not your goofball religion silenced us of millennia? Please do not resort to global Dark Side conspiracies. If you believe that, you will indeed believe anything.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Seksi Vitez

      That would be true about knowing the world was round if they had... oh I don't know.. communication devices. What a dumb argument you gave to Arcangelw7.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  6. Nii

    I cant believe the many people who post here and talk about science as if it equals Atheism. A lot of people say things which are not true like most scientists re Atheists. Do they expect us to trust them over the Bible afterwards??? I don't think so!

    June 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • OOO

      Believe me, No atheists or scientists expect you to trust us over the bible. Be we can try 🙂

      June 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      look up statistics on religion and scientists. the scientific community has a much much higher rate of atheism than the general public.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Dorothy

      The problem is that those who spout the Bible tend to lose their credibility when they assert that somehow they believe that through the multiple interpretations of the Bible throughout history, they individually or as a religious organization now actually know the mind of God. Even if you believe the Bible is divinely inspired, knowing how it's interpretation was abused throughout history, it is quite arrogant to assume that this is the point in history where everything has become so evident.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Orwell prefers Guyana punch

      It is because they can't think and be resourceful enough to use a dictionary. Facts and reality get in their personal and perfect interpretation of the bible.

      They may hate science because they perceive it as against their religion.
      But they love and use technology as though it is god given, and their right.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Thank you, Dorothy.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    poor snake probably had to brush his fangs after putting his mouth on this turd.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  8. MightyMoo

    People dumb enough to play with fire will get burned eventually.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      You can't fix stupid, but apparently you CAN kill it.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Dorothy

    I have no problem with people using the Bible as a guide to form their own personal spirituality. I don't even have problems with people having the bias that the Bible carries more weight than other writings which we use to form our own spirituality. I actually commend people for being reflective individuals who try to expand their minds beyond the physical world (whose science I strongly respect). What I have a problem with is those people who use the Bible or any other religious book and assume that through it they personally or their religious organization can infallibly know the mind of God. Even if one beings with the assumption that the book is divinely inspired, the assumption that it allows one to get anything more than a fleeting glimpse of divine knowledge is arrogant at best and extremely egotistical and blasphemous at worst. If one believes in the "possibility of heresies" this seems as if it would be the greatest heresy of all. While I would not be so arrogant as to exclude the possibility of a deity, I would also never be so presumptuous to assume that I comprehend his plan or will for anybody other than myself.

    June 3, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  10. Brandon Brown

    By the way, even you serve a religion even if you don't think you do. It's called the scientific community. Your god is the consensus of that scientific community. Disagreeing with that consensus is your law. If you break that law, you are to be shamed.

    We're all going to serve someone, I choose Christ.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I choose reason.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • chubby rain

      Those who go against the scientific consensus, Plank, Einstein, Newton, end up being being revered by the scientific community. Those who go against the religious authority are excommunicated or worse. You are full of it.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      atheists serve truth. you serve someone who likely never existed.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • OOO

      Brandon,
      You need to think your arguments out a little more. The scientific method is the best method devised by man for determining whats true. You make a theory. Everyone in the world is free to test that theory and 1. either prove it wrong or 2. Add to its credibility by using it to make predictions.

      There is no worship there.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Orwell prefers Guyana punch

      Try thinking: inside or outside the box. The nice thing about the bible is that you can twist the words any way you want, generate contradictions and dismiss them as the mysterious ways of the lord. Plus as a chosen follower, you can personally invent facts or change meanings when needed, or burn people at the stake. As for your shame system, which works well in religion, frequently the scientists who go against their peers' conventional thinking in pursuit of objective physical reality and succeed, are the norm for progress, like Charles Darwin or Albert Einstein. Below are definitions from the Oxford dictionary.

      Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.
      Science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • sam stone

      really? you feel shame is equivalent to eternal torture?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Leo

      Jesus never existed is a lie!! Thanks for proving you don't serve truth!!

      Jesus is a historical fact, who changed the world more than any other person that ever lived.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why don't you post another video about how cells work, Leo?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • OOO

      Um.... thanks for your two cents Leo,
      Now, what were we saying..??

      June 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Jesus is a historical fact, who changed the world more than any other person that ever lived."
      really? evidence? proof?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      There is a difference between accepting reality and serving a fantasy. You try to justify your own irrationality by accusing others of rationality. Nonsense equivalence.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Leo

      Tom, I feel sorry for you, no hope, no life, only hatred and spite.

      Booty the fact that you are here trying to disprove him is proof enough!! Why would someone put such an effort if they really believe someone never existed? The Jews, the Romans, The Christians, The Muslims all know jesus lived.

      Thats truth!!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • OOO

      Leo,
      Your arguments are less than impressive. Because Tom is trying to disprove Jesus existed, that's proof that he did exist?
      Please.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Booty the fact that you are here trying to disprove him is proof enough"

      i tried to disprove my left nut was God, but couldn't do it. according to your "logic", that's proof enough. yay! my left nut must be God!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Leo

      ooo, my point was how stupid it is for a man to spend his time trying to prove that someone did not exist.... To believe that Jesus never existed only comes from being ignorant to histiory, period.

      You missed this part The Jews, the Romans, The Christians, The Muslims all know jesus lived.

      Thats truth!!

      Tell me did Plato, Socrates, and Tacitus really live? The historical evidence for them is nothing compared to that of Jesus!!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      "Tell me did Plato, Socrates, and Tacitus really live? The historical evidence for them is nothing compared to that of Jesus!!"

      ummm... wrong. there is very good evidence for plato having existed. what evidence do you have that jesus was not just a mythological figure, like hercules?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • Leo

      Too Funny!! Thanks!!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • No Way Yahweh

      Tell me did Plato, Socrates, and Tacitus really live? The historical evidence for them is nothing compared to that of Jesus!!
      Your "evidence" is based on information from ONE book... that's not considered well supported historical proof. Sorry. Show me the Roman literature that tells of Jesus DURING the time he was supposed to be alive. You think that if someone was performing these "miracles" and had caused such an uproar that no other outside source would have recorded it?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • No Way Yahweh

      Any one who actually takes the time to look at history can see that the bible and other holy books were fabricated as control tools, the ability to control the minds of the masses is how people came to power. And what better way than to say you have all the answers in one book that is the literal word of god. It's so transparent its ridiculous.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Leo

      Most modern historians agree that Jesus existed and was a Jewish teacher from Galilee in Roman Judaea, who was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect, Pontius Pilate. Scholars have offered competing descriptions and portraits of Jesus, which at times share a number of overlapping attributes, such as a rabbi, a charismatic healer, the leader of an apocalyptic movement, a self-described Messiah, a sage and philosopher, or a social reformer who preached of the "Kingdom of God" as a means for personal and egalitarian social transformation. Scholars have correlated the New Testament accounts with non-Christian historical records to arrive at an estimated chronology of Jesus' life.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus#cite_note-autogenerated3-311

      June 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Get Real

      Leo,
      "Tell me did Plato, Socrates, and Tacitus really live?"

      Any claims made by or attributed to having been made by those men must undergo (and has undergone) intense scrutiny and verification that they are valid concepts and are beneficial to us. It's the ideas that count, not the men.

      The claims attributed to Jesus require the same scrutiny.

      There is no verified evidence for the supernatural claims attributed to Jesus.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • Leo

      Get Real, you mention "verification that they are valid concepts and are beneficial to us"

      Have you ever read the words of Jesus in the Bible? Turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor as yourself, lay down your life for others, consider others more important than yourself, feed the poor?

      June 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Get Real

      Yes, Leo... those are fine words and concepts (not original nor unique to Jesus, however). It does not verify the supernatural fantasy claims attached to the stories about him.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  11. blessings

    Fanatics on the right. Fanatics on the left. Jesus said there that there was so much more that He had not yet shared, but that the Holy Spirit would instruct us. The problem is recognizing the Holy Spirit over our own interpretations and beliefs. But, you can't help anyone who doesn't want to change. This snake handler changed his belief that he didn't need medical help a little too late. God bless him. God gifts people with medical education and practice to do His work. It is our challenge to believe that God loves us so much that he gifts these people to do his work of healing. One more thing. The NRA says that guns don't shoot people, people shoot people. To those who follow the NRA conservative state of mind remember the saying of a wise man who was Hindu, "I have no problem with Jesus Christ, it some of his followers that I cannot stand." You rant and rave against "religion," when its some Christians you cannot stand.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I don't hate the religionists.. just their religion.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      there is no such thing as the magical holy spirit. grow up. put santa claus to bed.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Orwell prefers Guyana punch

      If the bible is literally true, then this guy and his genetic father died because they are not with Jesus. The test of them handling snakes and dying from it, proves this for all eternity.

      Now the guy in Thailand whose family lives, eats and sleeps with snakes, they may not be Christian, but they are protected by jesus, Jesus backs that family, not that matoaka wv family pretending to be Christian.

      Case closed. Next serpent handler.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  12. Life lesson learned

    Do not pet the rattlesnake
    Unless its tail is wagging

    June 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Edwardo

      It sure does! It changed this pastor from a living being, to a dead corpse.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • Prayer was not mentioned in the story.

      Are you the only one who thought prayer was in this story?

      June 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Nunez

      Prayer changed my thing into a raging purple serpent. . . or perhaps it was the bath salts shared with me by Sarah Palin.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • mdmann

      I believe the term you are looking for is "brain atrophy."

      That's a change I do not want. Thank you very much.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  14. Brandon Brown

    The scripture about handling serpents and drinking poison at the end of Mark was not part of the earliest manuscripts, therefore I don't even read them when reading my Bible. Sad that this whole thing is needless.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • OOO

      Where do you draw the line Brandon? The whole Bible was whipped together by a bunch of mortal men, not god.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      The scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit such that the writers were writing infallible words. All scripture is God breathed, the Bible says it itself. I trust the scriptures because I find Jesus to be majestic.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • Entertained Tyler

      Yet you skip some portions of the bible? You are going against yourself.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • OOO

      The scriptures were inspired by the holy spirit because the guys in charge of it at the time said it was. That's it. It was necessary, otherwise no one else would take it seriously.
      Please, only someone gullable (faithful) would not be able to see through this after learning about how this all came about.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      Tyler, I skip only the portions which the church knows was added to later manuscripts by the scribes. Mark 9-20 has a different style when you read it from the rest of Mark, it's very obvious that it doesn't belong. There are thousands of transcripts and Mark 9-20 is only present in the latest ones, NOT the earliest ones. There's not many sections that were added.

      I use the ESV study Bible.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      OOO

      So you're talking about creation? There are plenty of people that have their Phds. in science/math including biology, chemistry and physics that still believe God created everything. Even IF it was through evolution.

      Don't let scientific evidence automatically dismiss the possibility of their being a God.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • OOO

      Brandon,
      I'm not talking about creation. I'm talking about the bible.
      Anyway, you will always find some scientists that go along with your beliefs. But you understand that you would be lucky if that number were above 2% of all the serious scientists.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      So then you think the writers were lying is that correct?

      I don't. When Paul is writing the book of Romans, he's not a lunatic or a liar. There's no way he could have just came up with all that stuff.

      Keep in mind this man was persecuted severely. 5 times he was hit with 39 lashes. This man believed Christ was God and that he had seen him on the Damascus road.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • OOO

      Brandon,
      And I'm not letting scientific evidence automatically dismiss the possibility of their being a god. I am not even considering the possibility of a god until some evidence starts to show up! See the difference?

      June 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Brandon Brown

      You said, " All scripture is God breathed, the Bible says it itself."

      So the bible is the word of god because it says so in the bible? *facepalm*

      June 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      OOO

      I'm going to say this humbly but truthfully. Even if God were to ascend from heaven right now and show himself to you. You wouldn't worship him because you hate him.

      It's not about evidence with you. It's about doing the easy thing. Show me evidence and I'll worship (the pharisees said the exact same thing).
      The issue is you don't desire God.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • OOO

      Brandon,
      I do not know what the writers were thinking... do you? But clearly (as i mentioned earlier about gullability and faith being one in the same) this stuff is not something to live your life around.

      If you are a student of history AND human nature, you could see how this was done... and there are more example of this in the world beyond your bible. All the religions (thousands of them) have similar genesis.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Entertained Tyler

      How can someone hate god when they don't believe there is any evidence he exists?
      You are saying 'they don't believe in god due to their hatred for him.
      We are saying, how could we hate god, i see no reason to believe he is real!

      June 3, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Brandon – You don't worship invisible unicorns because you hate them. If they descended from heaven, you still would not worship them, because you hate them.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • sybaris

      Brandon is on a roll. He's pulling out every bogus fallacy against non-believers repeated ad nauseum.

      Think for yourself Brandon, don't let your minister, CARM or The Creation Museum use you to make yourself and your religion look stupid.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  15. fastball

    The Darwin Awards have another entrant!

    June 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  16. Dorothy

    So we have this poor dude getting bit by a snake because the Bible told him to handle them. We have the pope cruising around in a popemobile telling women not to use contraception because the Bible tells him its intrinsically evil. We got the nut jobs in NC wanting to kill gays because the Bible tells them ho mo se x uality is evil. We got Phelps protesting the funerals of our service men because the Bible tells him it the right thing to do. At what point do people who belong to religions that are obviously making stupid choices and interpreting the Bible in a crazy way stand up and say that this is just wrong?

    June 3, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • lindaluttrell

      Bravo, Dorothy! Well put!

      June 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Frank

      Interpreting the bible in a crazy way? All interpretations are crazy. The interpretation that snakes talk and a Jew came back to life and became a god who is his own daddy is crazy. And those are just the basics of Christianity.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Good. Good.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • OOO

      You know what? It's because of the millions and millions of "moderately" religious people out there that say they are not hurting anyone with their choices of faith.
      These people provide the necessary cover for the more fringe wacko's. They make faith and religion OK.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      I'm saying it, this is wrong. Those people are a terrible representation of Evangelical Christianity. I'm a Christian.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • OOO

      Brando,
      That's great, but it's not enough for you to say its wrong. Your religion says that the bible is the infallable word of God. How are you then going to tell someone who reads the bad parts correctly that they are wrong?

      June 3, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Brandon Brown

      OOO,

      You simply correct them. And I would have corrected this man if I knew him. Christians in his life should have corrected him. The problem is he's using the KJV and there usually isn't any commentaries in that version of the Bible.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • sybaris

      Brandon: "Those people are a terrible representation of Evangelical Christianity. I'm a Christian."

      Surely you must see the error in your statement. It's the same as a corporate lawyer being called a wannabe by a criminal lawyer. Same law school, same bar exam, different branch of law practice. By your logic only you are right.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      It's easy to see that the other guy is stupid; it's really hard to see that you are stupid. Just because you SEE something, doesn't mean it's real; just because you DON'T SEE something doesn't mean it's not real.

      June 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • mdmann

      "You simply correct them. And I would have corrected this man if I knew him. "

      And it would have had absolutely no effect. Once beliefs get entrenched to this level, it is ludicrous to think that anything you say to this person is going to change anything. It would likely only have strengthened him. None of this is rational. You can't "simply correct" someone who isn't thinking rationally. Not to mention that with which you are trying to correct them is likely full of rational holes in and of itself.

      That battle would have been lost before you even started.

      I have to believe that if Christ is real, and if he/she were here today, he would not find ANY of these interpretations acceptable. I think it is likely that all organized Christian religion has so strayed from the basic message that every incarnation would be found sorely lacking in merit.

      Does nobody find it ridiculous for something that is apparently so important (the fate of your immortal soul) to be subject to rules written in such an unclear way that it encourages misinterpretation upon misinterpretation? Is God really that obtuse? Does he just like s-crew-ing around with us? If the Bible is "The Word of God," why does it need so much "interpretation" by man? Why does it need commentaries? The message should be obvious when one reads it.

      The problem is that it ISN'T "The Word of God." It may be at some core level, but it is so tainted by the irrational workings of the human mind as to be completely useless unless you ignore the majority of it. There are only two things I find to be truthful:

      1) The Good Samaritan Parable
      2) The Golden Rule

      I believe this is the truthful core, and I believe this essence is shared by all major religions-EVEN ISLAM (for you fundamentalist Christian detractors). Most of the other stuff is pure human bunk which detracts from these very basic messages (which, in the end, SHOULD BE OBVIOUS, so if you need a book to tell you these things, you have serious problems).

      June 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Thank you mdmann. Your post is beautifully presented. Perhaps we might all take a hint from you and write clearly and dispassionately, because Logic and Rationality, man's most prized possessions, depend on it.

      June 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Major Tom

    So, another whackjob hillbilly bible thumper becomes a Darwin Award contender. How is this news?

    June 3, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Steve

      Agreed. Hopefully he didn't pass his genes on to any children. Darwin award?

      June 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  18. Henry

    S-h-i-t consumption is detrimental for s-o-d-o-m-i-t-e-s reasoning abilities.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Death

      Henry, you sound like someone who should die. Will you do it or will we have to speed you on your way?

      June 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Henry – You're actually on this adult forum, posting childish rants? You're making a complete fool of yourself today.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Wholly Mary

      You should know, you're full of it!

      June 3, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • Henry

      Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in h-e-l-l.

      June 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  19. Death

    As much as I dislike seeing people die, I believe it would be well worth it to execute every single religious person in the world with the exception of the children. If they grow up to be religious, execute them then. I've had it with crazy people.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Abolish All Religion

      Ditto.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • At death atheists believe

      So you would kill the billions who aren't violent or murderous?!

      What kind of person says that?!

      June 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Death – It is difficult to cope with, I know. You have no time or tolerance for stupidity. I get that. I wish death on their religion, not on them.

      June 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
    • sqeptiq

      Don't kill them; just make them register and wear a sign that says, "Anything I say should be treated as a possible hallucination."

      June 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
  20. Jt_flyer

    Is this the article about the crazy bath salts guy?

    June 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.