Why Do Pastors Use Bad Statistics?

Bob Smietana points out something we’ve all known for a long time: When pastors tell you a statistic from the pulpit, you better do some fact-checking of your own.

Like these numbers Pastor Mark Driscoll pulled out of nowhere (or, quite possibly, plagiarized from some other liar):

What percentage of Americans could be classified as evangelical Christian? The answer is around 8%. There are more left handed people, more Texans, and more pet cats than evangelicals in America.

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Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science Names New Executive Director

The first time I heard Robyn Blumner‘s name, it was in conjunction with a 2004 column she had written for the St. Petersburg Times (now called the Tampa Bay Times) in which she outed herself as an atheist:

I don’t expect to be applauded for these views since they are out of step with the majority of Americans, but neither should I be despised for them. Yet, I will be. I can already imagine the torrent of hate mail, with readers accusing me of all sorts of vile human derangements just because I subscribe to reason and logic to explain the world rather than faith.

America is a country steeped in religion and as such I expect to be bombarded by it. I take no issue with the right of religious people to proselytize, to erect houses of worship on every corner or to broadcast their fervor on television and radio. All I ask in return is a little consideration for the millions of us who don’t join in the “good news.

That column was published the same month that Sam HarrisThe End of Faith came out. While columns like that may be commonplace now (at least online), they sure as hell weren’t a decade ago. She was given an award by the Freedom From Religion Foundation later that year for her piece and the conversation it sparked.

Blumner has been a strong advocate for the values shared by many non-theists for years now, having led ACLU affiliates in both Utah and Florida before becoming a columnist. Yesterday, she took perhaps the largest step in our direction, taking on the role of the new Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science:

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Three Notre Dame Students Anonymously Fight School’s Birth-Control Mandate Lawsuit

The University of Notre Dame, like several Catholic institutions, doesn’t want to provide comprehensive medical coverage for their students so they’re suing in order to get out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Even though they don’t have to provide access to birth control, the third-party provider they work with does, and the don’t want that either.

This week, three anonymous students at the school joined in on a lawsuit to counter what Notre Dame is doing:

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Family Alleges Woman Died For Lack of Timely Medical Care; Calling the Doctor Would Have ‘Desecrated the Sabbath’

The relatives of an elderly Israeli woman have filed a $750,000 lawsuit against the Hadassim Nursing Home in Bnei Brak. The family alleges that the nurses refused to call a doctor when the 85-year-old’s condition worsened. The nursing home’s employees are said to have told the family that calling a doctor would desecrate the Sabbath.

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Snake-Handling Pastor Slips Away from Indictment

Last November, state authorities raided Knoxville pastor Andrew Hamblin‘s Tabernacle Church of God and took into custody the dozens of venomous snakes he kept around for God-pleasing purposes.

The state has a law again possessing venomous snakes and Hamblin was violating it — not to mention exploiting it on the National Geographic Channel’s now-canceled show “Snake Salvation.”

But Hamblin just got a huge break:

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