According to Book Describing Members of the Vineyard Church, ‘God Is Not Unlike a Stuffed Snoopy’

In a New Yorker review of T. M. Luhrmann‘s “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God,” Joan Acocella points out how desperate members of the Vineyard church are to point out their relationship with god… and how every meaningless action seems to be a sign from him:

This casualness carries over to conversations with God. The Vineyarders asked him “for admission to specific colleges, for the healing of specific illness — even, it is true, for specific red convertible cars.” Some Vineyard women had a regular “date night” with Jesus. They would serve a special dinner, set a place for him at the table, chat with him. He guided the Vineyarders every minute of the day. Sarah told Luhrmann how, one day, after a lunch at a restaurant with fellow-parishioners, she was feeling good about herself, whereupon, as she was crossing the parking lot, a bird shat on her blouse. God, she explained to Luhrmann, was giving her a little slap on the wrist for her self-satisfaction.

Bonus points to Acocella for getting the word “shat” into the New Yorker.

She also points out how the author (an anthropologist) compares this group’s religious beliefs to that of an imaginary best friend:

Not surprisingly, Luhrmann compares the Vineyarders’ beliefs to children’s thought processes. She discusses their views in relation to D. W. Winnicott’s theories about transitional objects. For some evangelicals, she says, God is not unlike a stuffed Snoopy.

Cue the religious hordes getting angry. Because it’s always mockery or insults when someone point out the obvious.

(Thanks to thenoisyoyster for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • JM

    As someone who grew up dragging a stuffed Snoopy everywhere I went, I’m offended.  That thing provided FAR more comfort to me than a god ever has!  ;)

    • The Other Weirdo

       I didn’t have Snoopy(where I was born, Snoopy didn’t exist), but  did have a stuffed teddy bear. I loved that bear. Then, one day, I accidentally pulled off its head and discovered a 4″-long wooden spike said head used to be attached to. Unlike God, my teddy bear taught me the valuable lesson of being careful.

  • Ggsillars

    In recent years, the New Yorker has been fairly relaxed about allowing words like “shit” or even “fuck” in the magazine, although usually as part of a direct quotation.

  • Fargofan1

    “Date night with Jesus” is one of the creepiest ideas I’ve ever heard.

    • Anonymous

      It is a logical extension of talking to the voice in your head and think you need a personal relationship with it.

      It’s sad the lady thinks God guided a bird to shit on her for being too happy.

  • Anonymous

    Ha,   

     Some Vineyard women had a regular “date night” with Jesus”.

    Maybe it’s time for gay men to have a date night with him too! Catholic priests should consider it too!

  • gski

    “… she was feeling good about herself … God … a little slap … for her self-satisfaction.”

    So you are told by god and religion that feeling good about yourself is wrong.  That’s evil, plain and simple.
     

  • Ronlawhouston

    How dare they insult Snoopy like that!

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like they simply enter heightened emotional states so that the brain releases certain chemicals like endorphins and dopamine. Of course that feels good and it can also alter one’s perception of reality to a some degree.

    In fact plenty of religions do things like meditating or fasting precisely for that reason. During the middle ages there were Christian mystics whose practices more resembled some Asian religions in their quest to have visions. But some of them know exactly what they are doing and don’t invent such ridiculous excuses to hide the purpose

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       I’ve tried to get believers to describe to me what this “personal relationship” is like, and none of them will cop to actually having experienced a vision or apparition, or hearing a voice.  I don’t even think they’re being honest about feeling “peace,”  a vague feeling of being protected, or any altered states whatsoever.

  • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

    I thought birds pooping on you was supposed to be good luck?

    • The Other Weirdo

       No, no, whenever something wet falls out of the sky and hits you, it’s never a good omen.

  • penny

    This is exactly how I grew up… every small action has meaning. If something random happened good, like finding a quarter on the ground, then I was pleasing God.  They teach you to have no self worth, only God matters. 

    So glad I’m out of that… it took many years to untrain my mind and I stopped believing relatively young (early 20′s). 

    • The Other Weirdo

       It’s not just them. Many New-Age philosophies have an aspect of this, too. I’ve been deprogramming myself for years now from that crap.

  • Mummy22kids

    It reminds me of the old “If the Foo shits wear it” joke.

  • Anonymous

    We have a bug-ridden “theory of mind” which postulates minds in things which don’t have them. After watching people having “conversations” with the mindless Siri apps on their iPhones, I realized that many if not most religions have invented “god apps” which make about as much sense. 

    Ironically we also see this misapplication of the theory of mind among “rationalist” scientists every time discussions of the Turing Test or SETI come up. At best the Turing Test just shows that clever programming can trick the brain’s theory of mind. And SETI makes the ludicrous assumption that  Carl Sagan-like geeks on exoplanets have built radio telescopes and want to communicate with similar geeks on Earth. Given that we have no evidence for the existence of the exo-geeks, the rationalizations for their silence have taken on the character of “The Dragon in my Garage.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

       IS there a “God App”?  I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.  Call is up, pray to it, and a display on the screen replies “My will be done!”

      100 percent accurate!

      • Brian Pansky

         centuries from now they will have the true app, programmed by someone divinely inspired.  It will be called App, like the Bible.  Where ‘bible’ just means ‘book’, so too will App just mean programmed application.  But it will be The App.  Maybe The Holy App.

      • FSq

        It’s called The Magic 8-Ball

      • The Other Weirdo

         Woody Allen’s “The Sleeper” had one.  It offered forgiveness and everything, complete with hail marii.

    • Anonymous

      The geek-loathing is strong in this one…

    • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

      If you knew anything about “theories of mind” or how the brain works, you’d know that likely, the brain tricks “the brain’s theory of mind” – see “mirror neurons” for instance…

  • FSq

    Shit, around here, you see women out for date with Jesus every Saturday. Of course, most of those Jesii are Mexicans with their wives, but….semantics….

  • Country Crock

    Cue the religious hordes getting angry. Because it’s always mockery or insults when someone point out the obvious.”

    This is a great observation and so true. I have an evangelical friend who regularly accuses me of mockery when I am only pointing out the obvious!

  • Anonymous

    I have an idea. 
    Nothing in the gospels indicates that Jesus knew much of the mathematics of his time. How about setting up a weekly math-tutoring night for Jesus? Get a copy of Euclid’s Elements or something and walk Jesus through the proofs.  

  • Robert Sacerich

    It really comes across to me like a mass delusion.

  • MG

    This made me think of something in the bible I actually found useful and applicable in my life–1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 

  • SteveS

    If they are dating JC, can a virgin birth be far behind. If they actually marry him, I guess they will be some kind of nun and spend the rest of their lives beating kids across the knuckles with rulers? It would get them out of the gene pool, at least.

    • Anonymous

      I believe that Catholic nuns are called “brides of Christ” and even wear wedding rings to symbolize their commitment.

  • Brian Pansky

    You can tell a lot about someone by the way they communicate.  For instance, if someone throws bird poo on you to signal that they disapprove of something you did, the thrower is a passive-aggressive weirdo.

  • Azulitaone

    I believe this is when we pull out the invisible pink unicorn.

  • TLCupp

    This is my first post to this discussion board.  I am an agnostic and I’m having a problem with a couple of definitions.  I’m probably not the first person to state the following position so I hope you are patient with me.  I chose this board because it was listed as “Friendly Atheists”.  I am here for information and discussion, not heated argument.  Having said all that, I want to know what the difference is between an Atheist and an Agnostic.  Humans use language as a basis to communicate, therefore we use accepted  syntax to make these communications clear.  When I break down the term, “Atheist”, I see “No God”.  Does this mean an Atheist does not BELIEVE in a God, or does it mean an Atheist says there IS NO God?  For me, this is a critical distinction.  Knowledge and belief are two entirely different things.  I cannot see how anyone can say there is no God just as I cannot see how anyone can say there is a God.  I can, however, see how they can say they believe there is or is not a God.  Because of this distinction, I ultimately say everyone is an agnostic (which is to say we cannot KNOW if there is or is not a God… it does not preclude belief).  Just because science cannot prove there is no God does not mean a God does not exist.  After all, there was a time when science could not prove the earth was round nor was not the center of the solar system.  It would be ironic if at some point science actually proved God did exist!  But lack of proof is not sufficient evidence to say something is not.  It may end up simply being ignorance, we don’t know.  However, until such time the best anyone can say is that they believe one way or another; they cannot prove yea or nay.  Thanks again for your patience, and I’ll look for responses.

    • Tara

      “Atheist” encompasses both “no current belief in a god or gods” and “believing there is DEFINITELY no god or gods.” “Agnostic” is commonly used to mean “someone who is unsure about the God question” but can also refer to someone who thinks that the answer is ultimately unknowable to humans. Thus it’s perfectly possible to be an agnostic atheist – someone who thinks you cannot absolutely prove that there is no supernatural, but still sees no good reason to think a supernatural actually exists.


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