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August 29th, 2013
01:24 PM ET

Former staffer: Measles church counseled faith, not shots

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) ­ When Amy Arden joined Eagle Mountain International Church in 1997, her 11­month­old daughter had received all the recommended vaccinations. But in the six years the young, single mother worked and worshipped at the evangelical megachurch, Arden didn’t take her child to get a single shot.

“There was a belief permeating throughout the church that there is only faith and fear,” Arden said. “If you were afraid of the illness enough to get vaccinated, it showed a lack of faith that God would protect and heal you.”

Members of Eagle Mountain International Church also believed that childhood vaccinations could lead to autism, said Arden, who is 35.

Arden said she was taught by a supervisor at the church's nursery how to opt out of a Texas law that requires most children to be immunized. She now regrets passing the same lesson on to other parents.

“I didn’t know a single mother who was vaccinating her children,” she said.

Eagle Mountains teachings on health, including disparaging remarks about vaccinations, have been called into question since an outbreak of measles in Texas – an outbreak that state officials tie to the church.

As a Word of Faith church, Eagle Mountain is part of the booming prosperity gospel movement, which holds that God wants to reward believers with riches, health and happiness, if they will just recite certain Scriptures, pray and trust in divine providence.

The church is part of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, a vast and profitable multimedia ministry led by its namesake, a longtime prosperity preacher and television evangelist.

In the prosperity gospel world, Copeland, 76, and his wife, Gloria, are considered royalty, said Kate Bowler, author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel.”

“He is a major grandfather of the movement, starting to age out but still incredibly influential,”

Bowler said. “They’ve been on the air forever and stayed largely scandal­free. That’s partly why they are so trusted by lots of people.”

According to Kenneth Copeland Ministries, the Copelands' daily program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network reaches millions of viewers, their magazine more than 500,000 readers.

Based in Newark, Texas, a rural community 25 miles north of Fort Worth, Eagle Mountain is co­pastored by Copeland's daughter, Terri Copeland Pearsons, and son­in­law, George Pearsons.

Twenty­one people in Tarrant County and nearby Denton County have contracted measles during this outbreak, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The victims include nine children and range from 4 to 44 years old..

Tarrant County epidemiologist Russell Jones said the confirmed cases can be traced back to a person who attended Eagle Mountain International Church after visiting Asia, which has higher rates of measles infections than the United States.

Health officials are not releasing the name of that person or the particular country.

Jones said he doesn’t know exactly how many of the infected people are members of Eagle Mountain. At least 11 of the 21 did not have any measles vaccinations, he said. (Doctors usually recommend two shots.)

“Our concern would be that if you have a pocket of people who associate and think alike, if they don’t believe in immunization there’s going to be some other vulnerable people,” Jones said.

Neither Eagle Mountain International Church nor Kenneth Copeland Ministries responded to repeated requests for comment.

Eagle Mountain Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons has said that “while some people may believe she is against immunizations, that is not true.”

“I believe it is wrong to be against vaccinations,” she said in a statement.

But the pastor hasn’t always preached a pro­immunization message.

In an August 15 statement, Copeland Pearsons drew a link between vaccinations and autism, saying, “The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time.”

Likewise, in 2010, during a broadcast about health, Kenneth Copeland – whose followers consider him a prophet – voiced alarm about the number of shots given to his grandchild.

“All of this stuff they wanted to put into his body,” Copeland said. “Some of it is criminal!”

Copeland was particularly agitated about the Hepatitis B shot.

“In an infant? That’s crazy! That is a shot for sexually transmitted disease!” he said.

“We need to be a whole lot more serious about this and aware, and you don’t take the word of the guy who’s trying to give you the shot about what’s good and what isn’t.”

Dr. Don Colbert, a "divine health" expert who has appeared with Copeland in several broadcasts, then said the autism rate among children has increased with the number of childhood vaccinations.

"I have had so many patients bring their children in and they say, you know what, the week after I had that immunization, for MMR – measles, mumps and rubella – my child stopped talking, my child stopped giving me eye contact. He was not alert, he was not coherent. he quit speaking, he quit being the child I had," Colbert said on the webcast.

Colbert and the Copeland family are wrong about immunizations, said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University.

“It's painful because these pastors are trusted spiritual leaders who are speaking to people not only in their congregations but also on television," he said. "They are putting people at risk.”

There is no link between vaccinations and autism, and hepatitis can be passed from mother to child, making the shot necessary and effective, Schaffner said.

Schaffner said that doctors call concerns about bundling immunizations the "pin cushion effect." It's a common but unfounded fear, he said.

Most health experts, including the American Pediatric Association and the Tarrant County Public Health Department, agree with Schaffner.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the church and ministry said that they believe in, and advocate the use of, medical professionals.

"If an individual is faced with a situation that requires medical attention, that person should seek out the appropriate medical professional and follow their instructions using wisdom," the church leaders said.

After the measles outbreak, Kenneth Copeland said that he “inquired of the Lord as to what he would say regarding these vaccinations,” according to a statement posted on the church's website on August 15.

The pastor said that God told him to “pray over it,” and then to “take advantage of what I have provided for you in Jesus’ name.”

Since the measles outbreak, Eagle Mountain has held two free immunization clinics, where about 220 church members received vaccinations, according to Jones, who said the county assisted with the clinics. Jones said that he is working to ascertain how many of the church’s 1,500 members have still not been immunized.

Eagle Mountain and Kenneth Copeland Ministries also disinfected their shared 25­acre campus, including the nursery and day care center, Pearsons said at an August 14 church service titled “Taking Our Stand of Faith Over Measles.” The church runs schools for children through the sixth grade.

When Copeland announces a change in church policy, it's often after he has claimed to receive a new divine revelation, said former members of the church.

"Kenneth would always come up with a new prophecy to match what's going on," said one

former church member, who wished to remain anonymous in order to maintain business ties with the church.

In this case, Copeland’s new revelation – and the church's recent statements –represent a big shift, said the former members.

Amy Arden worshipped and worked at the church, including in its nursery, for six years, first as a volunteer, then as paid staff from 2000 to 2003.

Arden said she now deeply regrets teaching other parents how to access the Texas immunization exemption forms. But she and another former church employee described a closed spiritual world in which doubts are kept quiet and leaders' words are rarely questioned.

“This was Kenneth Copeland’s ministry, and we did nothing that he did not approve of,” Arden said.

“It’s hard to believe that hundreds of his children in his church were not getting vaccinated and he didn’t know about it. If he was pro­vaccination, we would have vaccinated our children."

Arden recalled a 2002 lecture to church employees in which they were told that every part of Eagle Mountain International Church and Kenneth Copeland Ministries must reflect the founder’s vision.

Arden said she was fired from KCM in 2003 for disagreeing with the church’s willingness to take donations from the mentally ill, including institutionalized patients.

She later cooperated with a U.S. Senate investigation into Copeland’s and other prosperity preachers’ finances. The church was not penalized, but Sen. Chuck Grassley's 2011 report raised questions about the pastors' use of church­owned luxury items like private jets. The Copelands and Eagle Mountain called the investigation an attack on Word of Faith pastors.

Another former church member and Kenneth Copeland Ministries employee who volunteered in the nursery corroborated Arden’s account.

“Being vaccinated was like working against your faith,” said the former church member. “You were trusting a disease's power to infect you over God's ability to protect you.”

Neither Arden nor the other former church member recalled hearing the Copelands or Pearsons preach specifically against vaccinations, however. Nor did the Copelands counsel their flock to reject medical treatment for serious ailments, they said.

More often, the prosperity pastors would preach that faith is the best preventive measure and that some ailments can and should be prayed away, the church members recalled.

That’s a common belief among Pentecostals, said Bowler, the historian and Duke Divinity School professor. According to a 2006 Pew Study, 62% of American Pentecostals say they have witnessed divine healings.

But many Christian traditions teach that God can heal believers. What separates preachers like the Copelands is that they believe Jesus died not only to save humanity from sin but also from sickness.

“When Jesus bore away our sins, he also bore away our diseases,” Gloria Copeland has said in sermons about spiritual healing.

The Copelands also teach that they have unlocked the formula – a combination of words and Scriptures – to guide believers from optimistic faith to tangible results.

“The places they look for those results are their bodies and their wallets,” Bowler said.

In many ways, the Copelands are the spiritual successors to last century's revival preachers, Bowler said, trading traveling tent meetings for lucrative television ministries.

Kenneth Copeland learned at the feet of prosperity gospel founders Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts. Copeland calls Roberts, who believed that God had anointed his right hand with healing power, his "spiritual father."

The Copelands have since created their own unique brand of theology, emphasizing that the

spoken word – a Word of Faith – can turn prayers into reality. Kenneth Copeland teaches that simply uttering the words “I’m sick” can lead to illness, and that proclaiming yourself well can likewise lead to health.

“Our health, our wealth and our place in eternity is in our mouths. Everything about us has been, and will be, determined by the words we speak,” Copeland has said.

Arden said that church members were taught to repeat certain Bible passages, almost like a magic spell, to ward off disease.

“There were healing Scriptures we had to recite over and over again, and eventually, whatever you say will come to pass.”

The Copelands don’t claim to be healers, though they teach that believers who sow “seeds of faith” – sometimes through donations – can see miraculous results.

One account on the ministry’s website says that a Dutch boy was cured of autism after his mother attended Gloria Copeland’s healing school and watched Eagle Mountain church services online.

Arden recalled donating $400 – all she had in her savings account at the time – to the church when her daughter had a serious ear malady.

“I was a broke, single mother earning $7.50 an hour, so that was a fortune to me.” Her daughter required four surgeries before she was healed, Arden said.

Now a financial analyst in New York City, Arden said she keeps her distance from organized religion, but understands what draws certain kinds of Christians to churches like Eagle Mountain.

“About 90% of the people were just like me,” she said. “They needed hope, and they needed to believe that there was something bigger than themselves that would guide and protect them and keep the whole crush of life from pressing down on them.”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Bioethics • Church and state • Culture & Science • evangelicals • Faith • Faith & Health • Money & Faith • Pentecostal

soundoff (1,318 Responses)
  1. Kenman

    Wow CNN, why is it that so many of your "Faith" blogs are so critical of Christianity? And I don't care for an answer from any of your typical anti-Christian bloggers.

    No wonder you don't consider yourself an American company, but an international one, since you have the genuineness of a Pravda on the matters of faith and especially Christianity, the faith of our Forefathers!

    August 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Is the story true or false ?

      August 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • sam

      Batshit crazy needs to be brought to light so people can start avoiding it.

      This, after all, is actually happening in TX. Do you feel no one should be critical of it?

      August 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Eric B

      Say what you will but the story is true. The churchs faith in god made people sick, someone should sue the church . Only a fool risks his health simply for faith . How did the children go to school you have to be vaccinated

      August 29, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
      • Popperian refutability

        The real miracles are through science and technology. Antibiotics. Cochlear implants. Polio and Smallpox vaccinations. Anti-malarial compounds. prosthetic limbs, eradication of species of filarial worms, etc. If you want to believe in something, believe in science. The evidence is compelling. No faith required.

        January 28, 2014 at 8:02 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      so a news organization publishes facts that you don't agree with so they are un-American. Pitiful.

      you'd better stick with FOX News. They'll lie all day to tell you what you want to hear.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • lame dooggy

        ugh fox news joke. good ooooooonnnnne zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        August 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
        • sam

          This kind of obsession with a poster usually means you have some kind of crush.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Does that mean I have a crush on Christians... since all i ever talk about are CHristians?

          August 29, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          stop using my name to post, whoever you are.

          August 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
      • Roger that

        Fox News. Al Jazeera of the west.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      First off it is a Secular Nation, most of the forefathers were deist, not theist.
      Second, this type of thing should be brought to light. In case you missed it, there are people within this group who are willing to put innocent lives at risk due to conspiracy theories and their god.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      feeling a bit paranoid, kenman?

      August 29, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
  2. Sean

    I thought the belief was "God helps those who help themselves"? Wouldn't vaccinations count as helping yourself?

    August 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Johnny

      Sounds like a long winded way of saying that god is useless to me.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • hammerschlag

      This Pastor and his church is an excellent example of a scam artist stealing from uneducated people in Texas and the South. Why the Government has not jailed this couple is beyond me. Why are people so dumb and listen to this crook?

      August 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • chieftrainer

      Although that is not in the bible, you are right. God provided humans with thinking brains. God provided countless different plants. Humans used their God-given brains to discover that God-given plants had God-given medicinal properties.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
  3. No one

    How many more times do they have to prove themselves wrong before they get the message, not even saying god isn't there, but that god is telling them they're being stupid, ie the rattlesnake church, that both father and son died from.

    August 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  4. Colin

    Here are 10 commandments every child should be taught.

    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must. They can’t all be right.

    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.

    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.

    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.

    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.

    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.

    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?

    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?

    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.

    I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, Christianity or any other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species. Then we wouldn't hear about stories like this one, stroies of the stupid in society being taken advantage of, or of people wasting their entire lives in a futile effort to avoid the inevitability of death.

    August 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • mirror

      what do you do when someone points out yuo are wrong/?
      get defensive and illogical...why is that??? teen years are about rebeling and being angry at everyone. especially insttutions..
      .
      .
      .
      .
      ..
      .wanna know a secret?

      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      what you are really mad (illogical) about "religion" is actually what you are mad about yourself.
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.
      ^^^the most important thing a human being can know^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
      .
      .
      .
      .
      .
      much better than that looney atheist website you copy from

      August 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
      • Thread Nanny

        Your posting style is distracting and immature. Is there something wrong with you? Stop it.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • sam

        Uh...this isn't going to stay up long, FYI.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • In Santa we trust

        Mirror, Are you projecting your own thought process onto that post. Do you have any answers to the questions?

        August 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
        • mirror

          im not a christian so it looks like it wasnt' written for me

          August 29, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          mirror, I didn't presume you were nor did I ask. Will you answer my questions?

          August 31, 2013 at 9:18 pm |
    • Doesn't Matter

      I love it. "Don't teach your child what you believe; teach your child what Colin believes."

      August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
      • Colin

        A+

        August 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
        • Colin

          Want your child to be a know-it-all smug man-baby... ...take the Colin Atheist Test.

          CAT...Meow....

          August 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      Another version:
      Ten Commandments cited by Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion

      Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.
      In all things, strive to cause no harm.
      Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.
      Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
      Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.
      Always seek to be learning something new.
      Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.
      Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.
      Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.
      Question everything.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  5. common_senseguy

    Aaah..Texas. I am so ashamed of my home state. For the love of all things folks wake up !!! and stop following these crazy christian taliban nut cases.

    August 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Colin

      The state has a long way to go, I'm afraid. Rick Perry can still fill a stadium in Houston with tens of thousands of pathetic Christians who think they can pray to end a drought!!!

      August 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
      • sam

        Still shaking my head over the fact that the only result of that praying...was wildfires.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  6. Katie

    How stupid are these people, who blindly follow priests/ministers/churches so blindly??? Measles is such of a horrific disease, always leaves victims deeply scarred and gross looking, if not dead.

    August 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Desperate, not stupid. Wanting to believe, not stupid. Willfully blinding themselves because they think it necessary – but not stupid.

      I don't agree, but "stupid" is too simple an explanation. It's like any con, any snake oil salesman – they sell hope, they sell fear, they sell pretty fairytales (there's a great all powerful being, and he will fix everything wrong in your life and make it so you never die – if you just do what we say).

      August 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • Johnny

        The con is even better than that because it doesn't promise anything will be better until after you die, which means they never have to prove anything they say is true.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
        • Unlo4

          I always thought that was the ultimate gag. It's like "For a hamburger today, I'll gladly pay you after you die".

          August 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
        • Johnny

          The sign on a burger joint near my house always says "Free Beer and Burgers Tomorrow."

          August 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    apparently I have been mean to Christians. I am sorry.

    I am sorry for pointing out the foolishness of the fairy tale that you base your lives on.

    I am sorry for pointing out the complete lack of evidence for anything in the aforementioned fairy tale

    I must point out though that I never insult you personally or question your intelligence in any way. I do call you delusional (which you are) and I do call your religion foolish (which it is). These statements are both facts, so you shouldn't take offense.

    You may be the smartest person in the world (I am sure that Mr. Deacon is close to that) but you can be delusional as well as smart. These terms are not mutually exclusive.

    So, I wish you peace and happiness and hope that you wake from your delusion soon and join us Atheists in the real world.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Colin

      That is actually quite true. Otherwise smart, functioning people will believe the simplest of childish nonsense in this one part of their lives. You just have to look at the fundamental idea of christianity with an objective eye.

      The stuff those people believe is batsh.it crazy!

      August 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      yoU are a Sick as Your fakE ash apoLOgies

      if You beLieve youR own Lies – yoU are In troubLe
      posting on here day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after day after is noT livINg in the

      REAL WORLD.

      stupiD D1Ck, ain't nobody should takE Your AdvICE about thE real World unles$ they a STupid 14 YeaR OLd like Colin.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        please don't use my name to post. you seem very troubled. perhaps you should seek psychiatric help?

        August 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          u dont think anyone wants u to seek psychiatric help. what about yoru sick mind, lil doGGies?

          August 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
        • honestly

          yer user name is offenseive. if you honestly wnat to be respec ted...show some respect.
          .
          .
          .
          .
          ..
          don't us e a slur name as a poisting name

          August 29, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
        • honestly

          i honestly dunno wot honestly means sometimes i post as mirror and others

          August 31, 2013 at 9:20 pm |
    • Katie

      I'm not sorry. These fundamentalists are freaks.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      It must be nice to know you are so much greater than most of the rest of the world. Enjoy your delusion.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I'm not even the smartest person I know, much less the smartest out of whatever sized group you care to draw. But thank you for the compliment. I will say though that the criticisms you've garnered today are pretty accurate.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        that hurts me Bill. 😦

        August 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm |
        • :(

          think about all the people you have hurt with your words.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • You need a job and a life

      to keep you occupied. Anything would have to be better than sitting hair-triggered all day waiting for a religion story for you to run slobbering into.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • Colin

        I don't need to work. And I didn't need a god to accomplish this feat.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      To communicate effectively, you have to speak in a way that people are willing to listen – not in a way that drives others – even those who might agree with you – away.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • Insincere

        He doesn't honestly want to communicate, he just wants to prove he is better

        August 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          I know I am no better than anyone else. I just get frustrated that nice people like you are enslaved by this foolishness. I want to help you know the real world.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
        • truth?

          your intentions sound good
          but your actions are horrible
          you might as well be one of theose crazy religious folks. i honestly cant tgell the diffrence – other than you say "Christians" and they say "heathans" you might as well be standing on a corner preaching like a crazy lady

          August 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        thanks for the advice. I agree with you and will try harder.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
        • :)

          good doggie, here is some bacon

          August 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          isn't that forbidden?

          August 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • UniversalMan

      “Shouldn’t someone answer this torrent of words? Is a person proved innocent just by a lot of talking? Should I remain silent while you babble on? When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed? 4 You claim, ‘My beliefs are pure,’ and ‘I am clean in the sight of God.’ If only God would speak; if only he would tell you what he thinks! "
      Job 11:2 NLT

      August 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • UniversalMan

      “Shouldn’t someone answer this torrent of words? Is a person proved innocent just by a lot of talking? Should I remain silent while you babble on? When you mock God, shouldn’t someone make you ashamed? 4 You claim, ‘My beliefs are pure,’ and ‘I am clean in the sight of God.’ If only God would speak; if only he would tell you what he thinks! "
      Job 11:2-5 NLT

      August 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  8. Colin

    The funny thing is that, the principal gospel verse the faith healers (and snake handlers) rely on is the very end of Mark, which was forged by an unknown Christian scribe in about the Fifth Century. There is an undeniable irony in the fact that these practices are based largely on forged scripture.

    Then again, would it make what they do any less ludicrous if they based their practices on something written by one person we know absolutely nothing about (the author of Mark) rather than the later interloper who we know absolutely nothing about?

    August 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Dippy

      But they have access to something you don't.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
      • Colin

        Pfft. What? God? I am all the god I need.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      who are you and what have you done with Angry Colin?

      August 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
      • Colin

        There is another guy who started posting a few weeks ago who has been using my name. It's pretty easy to tell us apart. Just look at the content and you can pretty much work out which one it is.

        August 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • Colin

          I'm the slightly less smug one.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  9. Robin Jones

    Just a reminder, Dr. Colbert, that the autism rate among children has increased along with the number of members in fundamentalist prosperity churches. By your reasoning, the cause is, therefore, obvious and such churches should be shut down because they have brought God's wrath down upon themselves in the form of God tormenting their children.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      You're an idiot! Those claims that the autism rates have increased are horrible conspiracy theories! Anyone refusing vaccinations for their children based on that unfounded belief or based on religious belief should not have children in their care. These vaccines exist for a reason-to prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        I think you missed Robin's joke ...

        August 29, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Sometimes hard to tell over the internet. My mistake.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • your hate is blinding

        You need a job and a life

        to keep you occupied. Anything would have to be better than sitting hair-triggered all day waiting for a religion story for you to run slobbering into.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          That's nice, the same could be said about you!

          August 29, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
        • NO

          YOU jumped the trigger

          August 29, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Katie

      Amen.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Nice! Very true. Autism rates have increased at the same time as that type of church has. Must be linked.

      Hmmm- autism has increased as the calendar year has increased too! We must start using the Chinese Year of the Cat style dating to cure autism!

      August 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  10. Mark

    If the church disinfected their 25 acre campus, doesn't that show they have no faith in God's ability to protect them???

    August 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • A loving atheist

      Very good point!

      August 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      They're now pretending like they never discouraged vaccines, so of course they'll go with that.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  11. Charles Darwin

    I think some people are born with a defective gene that causes them to believe in weird supernatural things and beings.

    I used to think they were just stupid but now I am leaning toward the defective gene theory. I'm serious and not trying to sound like a troll.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Colin

      It is interesting that the only thing in history that has been shown to reduce religion is education, especially in the sciences.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
      • Colin

        (I choose to ignore the thousands (yes, thousands) of actual people who know more about science than me so i can pollute this board with my sickness i call my philosophy)

        August 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Responding to the Pride

      A very short list of "defective" people:

      Sir Robert Boyd
      John Gurdon
      J. Richard Gott
      Brian Kobilka
      Rosalind Picard

      and the list goes on.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Not defective. Like many things, it had it's use in different environments than the modern world, still does have it's use sometimes.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      I don't think it's a defective gene but a gene that was likely integral to our ancestors survival. It could be called the "learn by oral account" gene where our ancestors who were developing rudimentary means to communicate would of course be most concerned with communicating warnings of some kind. Those who listened to those warnings without having to see evidence of them tended to survive for they were being extra careful. That trait has been passed on but is not all that useful today, much like our vestigial body parts. Now that humans have become the top predator and eliminated many non-human threats the need to believe without evidence is less important. More and more of us are asking for proof of the boogie man in the closet before paying the boogie man police.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
      • fred

        Pure speculation on your part. There is a trait that has caused 98% of the worlds population in recorded history to believe life is more than this momentary physical existence. We remain the dominate species perhaps because of that trait. Mankind has never experienced existence where the majority are godless so we will never know if this is a good trait or a negative trait.
        The underlying hope that there is something more may well be the best trait we have.

        August 29, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
        • In Santa we trust

          And that is speculation on your part. There may have been some advantage in having that trait, but having the tendency to believe in the supernatural does not mean that the supernatural is a valid explanation.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  12. Geurge Busch

    It will take his decomposing body before people will admit god is dead. Since that won't happen (no actual bodies for mythical beings) the faith will stay around for quite a while. Science and religion don't mix.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  13. Colin

    A quick 12 question quiz might help explain a thing or two about religion.

    Q.1 The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings on the planet are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in an “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Cosmology;

    (c) Psychology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q. 2 You are only capable of risking the lives of your children by doing something as grossly irresponsible as denying them proper medical care and simply praying for their recovery instead if you are influenced by:

    (a) your education;

    (b) your diet;

    (c) your medical knowledge; or

    (d) your religion

    Q. 3 I believe that an all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire cosmos and its billions of galaxies, watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty" (like protect myself from disease with a condom, for example). I am

    (a) A victim of child molestation

    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover

    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions; or

    (d) A regular Christian, Jew or Muslim following my religious belief

    Q.4 I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am being obstinate and closed minded due to my:

    (a) hetero$exuality

    (b) genetics

    (c) nationality; or

    (d) religion.

    Q5. I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Christian, Muslim or Jew who believes that prayers are answered

    Q6. Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    Q.7 The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:

    (a) Architecture;

    (b) Philosophy;

    (c) Archeology; or

    (d) Religion

    Q.8 What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:

    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they MUST believe under threat of “burning in hell” or other of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;

    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “God is comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;

    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas all religion is regional and a person’s religion, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than a matter of upbringing; or

    (d) All of the above.

    Q.9 If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:

    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;

    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;

    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or

    (d) my religious belief.

    Q.10 Please complete the following sentence. It is not uncommon in many parts of the World for a young man to strap a suicide vest to himself and blow himself up and members of a rival __________
    (i) corporation

    (ii) university

    (iii) research insti.tute; or

    (iv) church?

    Q. 11 What is the only thing capable of making 40% of the country fvcking stupid enough to think the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake:

    (i) paleontology

    (ii) archeology

    (iii) biology; or

    (iv) religion

    Q. 12 It is only acceptable as an adult to believe Bronze Age mythology like talking snakes, the Red Sea splitting, mana falling from the sky, a man living in a whale's belly, a talking donkey, superhuman strength, a man rising from the dead and angels, ghosts, gods and demons in the field of:

    (i) history

    (ii) literature

    (iii) anthropology

    (iv) religion

    In short, nothing in history of human endeavor can make otherwise smart, functioning people believe the most implausible of supernatural absurdities and act like utter morons the way religion can.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Colin

      cute 🙂 what are you, 12?

      August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • srgntyork

        I dont know his age but why dont you show how any one of those questions is wrong? Just one.. go ahaed..i'm waiting...well?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

        August 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
        • Colin

          i'm not a christian, but clearly those questions are biased and trying to lead you into colins beliefs...its not liek any accredited university would allow such a thing. only a looney atheist would

          August 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Colin

          sargntyork. Don't hold your breath. I have been posting this and other posts pointing out the absurdities of religion and all I ever get in return is posts saying (i) I am arrogant, evil, going to burn in hell or otherwsie suffering from some personality disorder; (ii) I am wrong or do not "understand" Christianity with no details given; or (iii) my point will be twisted and then "refuted".

          August 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
        • Colin

          i prayed to be like Hitchens or Dawkins. God obviously didn't answer my prayers. hence god doesnt exist and I hate everyone who thinks he does.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
        • mirror

          you dont think people think the same thing about your absurdities? your flaw is you RATIONALIZE you are logical.
          but you aint. you are a human being – an evolved monkey – a wannabe logical mind – \
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          .
          ....but you are WRONG. You are not as logical as you simpyl wish you were. it don't work that way, kiddo. don't worry, it gets better after 19.

          August 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
        • bs alert

          -sargntyork. Don't hold your breath. I have been posting this and other posts pointing out the absurdities of religion and all I ever get in return is posts saying (i) I am arrogant, evil, going to burn in hell or otherwsie suffering from some personality disorder; (ii) I am wrong or do not "understand" Christianity with no details given; or (iii) my point will be twisted and then "refuted".--

          quit acting like a smug know it all little baby b!w3tch. take uyour pampers off and talk like a man. not a smug lil white bread wimpy dor4k that lives a privliged baby life.

          Colin, if you beliefe your BS you are in Big Trouble

          August 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
        • Unlo4

          Even if you're right, the method of delivering your message (copy-paste spam like a 12 year old) will lose any attention from your audience.

          August 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
    • Charles Darwin

      Well said !
      Do you mind if I copy this and re-post ?

      August 29, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
      • Colin

        Knock yourself out, my British bilogist friend......

        August 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
        • Dippy

          It's "biologist" not "bilogist".

          August 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
        • Colin

          Well thanks dippy, my typo clearly invalidates what I said.........

          August 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
      • Colin

        Sure, but don't worry. I will repost this thousands of more times. Eventually you'll get sick of it like spam from dfjkdh3897

        August 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
      • mirror

        don' t bother creditting yoru source – colin doesn't eitehr

        August 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • tl;dr

      .

      August 29, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • cliff notes of a colin post

        I'm right. You are wrong. and a delusional fvck! Mom! I want cheesy poofs!

        August 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Kerwyn

      Well done!

      August 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  14. Veronica

    Too bad you can't vaccinate against stupidity.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
    • Josh

      Well said.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  15. snowboarder

    apparently the snakeoil business is good.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  16. Dallas

    You have got to be kidding! My church doesn't tell us that bunk!

    August 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
    • Colin

      But the idea of a being powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies watching you every minute of your life for the purposes of reward or punishment in an äfterlife." Sure, no problem preaching that utter nonsense.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
      • Colin

        You dumb wanna be hitchens fvckhead – nobody preaches that but complete idiots like you and the fcking religiis nut jobs you claim you hate so much.
        drop out of your fake a$$ school and go to a real one you ignroant little whinney sick b!t*cgh
        dawkins wouldn't even let you sniff his underwear. sorry, but that is tthe truth

        August 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Many churches don't – there's better and worse, that's for sure! Some teach wonderful sentiments and good morals, others are predatory and toxic churches – problem is, the toxic ones are protected by the word 'church' and don't get the oversight they should, can preach anything and have it bought into because it's supposedly god's word.

      August 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  17. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Stupidity? No, at least that's not the worst of what this is. This is evil.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
  18. Colin

    If there is another group more gullible and stupid that the religious, I am yet to encounter them. 40% of the USA honesty believe the World began about 10,000 years ago with a talking fvcking snake because they are religious.

    August 29, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • Colin

      Gawd, we are so much better than them. I'm getting high off my own feeling of superiority, look at me....... wwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

      August 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  19. Jake

    How much more proof that there is no god do people need?

    August 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Josh

      There is no way to fix stupid, sadly.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      This isnt proof of no god. This is proof that people can be terminally gullible.

      August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  20. sm

    Hey, it's okay for the pastor's wife to get her hair dyed that color but my and mine can't see a doctor if we're sick?? who think's that's fair

    August 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
    • Dippy

      It's "thinks," not "think's."

      August 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Jennifer

      Not just hair dye, but plastic surgery and amassed wealth. Theirs is a family owned and operated church, with a man-handled religion. Such peddling of the Word of God for gain does not change the truth which is, but it certainly changes the experience of that truth for a lot of people who are foolish enough to listen. (I'm a Christian BTW, but I don't adhere to the lies of prosperity teaching).

      August 31, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
      • igaftr

        and yet you think the man made "word of god" is truth...

        January 28, 2014 at 8:09 am |
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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.