Will No One Hold John Hagee to Account? The Bible Says, “That Prophet Shall Die.”

Will No One Hold John Hagee to Account? The Bible Says, “That Prophet Shall Die.” April 14, 2016

bible prophecyJohn Hagee is that car crash you know you should turn away from but still find fascinating. It’s been half a year since his vacuous claims about the invented concept of the four blood moons. Hagee said, without evidence, “God is literally screaming at the world, ‘I’m coming soon,’ ” and “The coming four blood moons points to a world-shaking event that will happen between April 2014 and October 2015.”

And yet we’re still here, with the earth spinning pretty much like it did before the dreaded blood moons. Unsurprisingly, no world-shaking event happened. I’m not surprised that Hagee didn’t have the courage to admit his error. What did surprise me, though, is that he didn’t simply ignore reality and declare victory. That’s what the Seventh-day Adventist Church did when it formed out of the ashes of the Millerite movement and its embarrassing prediction of the end of the world in 1844. That’s what the Jehovah’s Witnesses did after the failure of their prediction that the world as we knew it would end in 1914.

Instead, Hagee is just proceeding as if nothing happened, as if milking this two-year prediction to its decrepit close and then moving on is simply what a televangelist does.

And perhaps he’s right. (Background on Hagee’s “prophecy” here, here, and here.)

Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi

Let’s compare Hagee with another famous prophet. The Oracle of Delphi, just one of many oracles in Ancient Greece, was an institution for over a thousand years. The priestess holding the position “was without doubt the most powerful woman of the classical world” (Wikipedia).

When Athens saw the mighty Persian army advancing in 480 BCE, held only briefly at Thermopylae, the Oracle famously told Athens that a “wooden wall” would save them. But what did that mean? A literal wooden wall? A forest? They decided instead that it meant their fleet of wooden triremes, and their naval action was indeed key to turning back the Persians.

About sixty years earlier, King Croesus of Lydia also sought advice from the Oracle. His question was about the wisdom of attacking Persia. The response: “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” Thinking that the great empire to be destroyed was Persia, he attacked. Unfortunately, the great empire that was destroyed was his own.

The wisdom at the time declared that the Oracle might be ambiguous but was never wrong. If something bad happened, the fault was your own for misunderstanding. And that’s what we see from Christians: the Bible and God are never wrong, and if something bad happens, the fault was yours.

At worst, the prophet takes the blame and the Bible that he pointed to as his source is untouched. And yet when does a modern prophet ever take any blame?

Contemporary “prophets”

Jim Bakker has also been riding the blood-moon gravy train. Ten weeks after the fourth moon fizzle, he said, “People, it’s all happening, but we’re not looking.” He needs to keep the flock in fear so that they keep buying his buckets of end times provisions.

Another prophet gobbling up scraps from the blood moons flop is Jonathan Cahn. His angle was that the last year in the seven-year Jewish cycle, the Shemitah year, ended near the fourth blood moon (more or less), and that this presaged a financial collapse. But Cahn can’t say those three little words that are difficult for so many men, “I was wrong,” and he doubled down on his claim in the aftermath. He declared victory by arguing that worldwide financial markets in 2015 had the worst performance … since 2008.

That’s it? That’s his world-ending event that God is eager to tell us about?

Revisiting Hagee

What’s up with Hagee? At his web site, there is nothing about picking up the pieces after the chaos from the blood moon or even reading the entrails to see what God was trying to tell us. We find no declaration of victory, no admission that he was wrong, or (and this is the really surprising one) any offer to compensate people who bought his book, sat through his movie, or made any financial donation due to the blood moons hysteria. Immediately after the final blood moon, he tried to change the subject by flogging a new book.

John Hagee, Inc. is back to normal, and all we find at the site are upcoming conferences, rallies, and tours; invitations to prayer requests; pleas for money; and encouragement to shop at the online store.

Hagee has lost all credibility to any thoughtful person. You don’t get more than one chance. Even the Bible agrees:

The prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. (Deuteronomy 18:20)

But Hagee is simply un-embarrassable. The true tragedy is that the rubes in his flock let him get away with it.

One silver lining of the prophecy insanity is watching the various end times prophets go at each other. Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor of Charisma magazine, sees the lack of accountability as in Hagee’s case with about as much disdain as I do. Though she might then turn around and play up some other groundless prophecy herself, on this point she’s on target.

I’ll celebrate this rare moment of concord by giving her the last word—remember, this is from the Christian editor of a magazine devoted to Christian prophecy:

Why do we make excuses for these prophets? Why is there no repentance? No apology? No accountability? …

Where is the repentance in the prophetic ministry? Why is it OK to get up on a megaplatform and prophesy things with specific date with no way of escape and move on to the next megaplatform (or Internet platform) without ever looking back at the mess you left behind? Why is it OK to charge for personal prophesy at the altar? Why is it OK to scare people half to death in the name of Jesus?

Why indeed?

Men occasionally stumble over the truth,
but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off
as if nothing had happened.
— Winston Churchill

Image credit: Marcel André Briefs, flickr, CC


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  • Loren Petrich

    There was another prophet in Greco-Roman antiquity who had a similar sort of prophecy, at least according to Lucian of Samosata. He was Alexander of Abonutichus, and in LoS’s account, AoA comes off as a charlatan.

    His fame at getting messages from his favorite god, Glycon, reached Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. One day the Emperor was confronting a Germanic tribe called the Marcomanni across the Danube river, along with some other ones. He requested advice from AoA, and AoA sent him a message that if the Emperor threw two lions into the Danube, a great victory would result. The Emperor did so, but it was the Marcomanni who won the great victory.

    When MA asked AoA about this, AoA responded that Glycon didn’t tell him who would have the great victory.

    Yes, LoS compared it to the Oracle of Delphi’s infamous Croesus prophecy.

  • epicurus

    I’ve also read that Hagee doesn’t think Jesus came to be the Jewish messiah, and so the Jews didn’t reject him. Jesus only came for the gentiles. A nice interpretation that fits into his extremely pro Israel stance, but should get him booted out of most churches (probably one of the reasons he has his own). Never hear any outcry over that either.

    • Jack Baynes

      Jesus came only for the gentiles. That explains why he preached almost exclusively to his fellow Jews…

      • Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).

  • Bawdybill

    In today’s market, killing a prophet is going to get you 20 years to life, unless you are in Texas. In Texas they kill failed prophets, innocent ethnic groups, other poor people and every now and then a rattlesnake.

    • MR

      I thought it was the rattlesnakes that killed the failed prophets…. Oh, maybe that was Kentucky.

      • RichardSRussell

        Fersher. I always thot that you couldn’t be a real, true, Bible-believing Christian unless you were a snake handler and poison drinker, otherwise you wouldn’t be properly following the crystal-clear commandment of the Lord:

        [15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

        [16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

        [17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

        [18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

        — Mark 16:15-18

        • MR

          [15] And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

          Never really thought about it before, but you don’t see a lot of cricket proselytizing, in spite of that command.

        • Professor_Tertius

          “…but you don’t see a lot of cricket proselytizing, in spite of that command.” I assume that you are being tongue-in-cheek and do understand the nature of language translation and the capturing of nuances and idioms from another language. In Semitic culture, humans are indeed in the category of NEPHESH, the living creatures.

          An English word that works somewhat analogously is “body”, as in “everybody”. If some English-speaker says, “Everybody likes a cold beer on a hot day”, nobody says, “All mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have bodies. Therefore, this silly person actually thinks that that thousands of animal species like to drink cold beer during the summer!” Such “logic” would brand someone a clueless idi0t—yet we see similar reasoning among a lot of anti-theist and Bible-bashing people on-line who aren’t being tongue-in-cheek to make a joke. (In retirement from many years as a religious studies professor, I enjoy collecting populists rants of that sort. Many of such forum commenters are totally serious.)

          Sadly, a lot of the silly “Bible errors” listed on amateurish websites betray a similar ignorance of cross-cultural communication and the art of language translation. Unfortunately, the monolingual myopia of the average American exacerbates such fallacies among the gullible.

        • MR

          Of course I was being tongue in cheek. You shouldn’t take what I said there any more seriously than I take that load of hogwash you just spouted.

        • Greg G.

          But the Bible consistently uses “heart” or even “kidneys” when it should have said “brain”. Modern theists are gullible enough to think “heart” is a euphemism for “brain” in the ancient languages when they were just wrong.

        • John Patterson

          “Byron figured Jesus wouldn’t mind.Apparently Jesus don’t like the Apache”-Ben Wade*(*Russell Crowe)”3:10 to Yuma).

        • Professor_Tertius

          Keep in mind that these verses are part of the “Long Ending” of Mark, which is absent from the oldest manuscripts. That’s why most modern English translations omit these verses or relegate them to a footnote or addendum. As a result, many Christians either don’t consider them to be scripture or consider them to include later insertions that are not clearly supported by Jesus’ teachings. (Some consider “they shall take up serpents” as prophesying what happened to the Apostle Paul after being shipwrecked and a snake emerged from firewood and bit him—but he didn’t suffer any poisoning. So they apply Mark 16:18 to the Apostolic Period of the early Church.

        • RichardSRussell

          My guess is that nobody who starts out the conversation by announcing that they’re a thoro-going, Bible-believing, born-again Christian who thinks the whole shootin’ match is the inerrant, infallible, divinely inspired Word of God is going to even be aware of such nuances, let alone subscribe to them. Those are pretty much the only folx that I feel like tweaking by asking them how many rattlers they’ve fondled of late.

        • Professor_Tertius

          No. Your guess was incorrect. Millions of people who describe themselves in exactly such terms listen to exactly those kinds of explanations from radio preachers like John Macarthur and Albert Mohler and read them on Christian websites. They carry to and from church their favorite “Study Bible.” (Knowledge of Ussher’s chronology and his 4004 B.C. creation date exploded among fundamentalist Christians with the publication of the Scofield Study Bible around 1909, I think it was.) Even Young Earth Creationist entrepreneurs like Ken Ham often pursue non-origins-related tangents to explain Biblical studies topics like the two major endings of the Markan epistle. So this is hardly esoteric knowledge among the born-again sector of American Protestantism.

          Yes, it is fun to overgeneralize and pretend that the most extreme stereotypes of the looniest loons fit the people groups we dislike. But whether we are dealing with generalizations based on ethnicity, skin color, politics, economic system (e.g., Communists, Socialists), or religion, bigotry always starts with “You know how _____ are! They’re all _______ and ______ and they all deserve to be laughed at and cartoonishly depicted. After all, those ______ people are clearly inferior to us!”

          The patterns of people group discrimination remain much the same as the centuries roll by—but it is the particular people groups which society decides are deserving of such generalizations and bigotry at any particular time which keeps shifting from one group to another. In my own lifetime I’ve lived long enough to see Appalachians, Roman Catholics, atheists, African-Americans, Chicanos, libertarians, and now born-again fundamentalist Christians qualifying for “OK to stereotype and ridicule as much as you like” status.

          Tribalism is a product of evolution. We naturally like to categorize the “us” versus the “them”, where the “us” is the good people and the “them” are the bad and inferior people. Bigotry always works that way. That’s why on this webpage one finds plenty of comments saying things like “All Christians are dishonest” [I saw that one just minutes ago] and “They’re all ignorant” and if you visit various fundamentalist Christian website you’ll find similar and equally inaccurate generalizations like “All atheists are immoral and bitter.” and the illogical “They’re all angry at God”. Bigotry in all its forms just LOVES over-generalizations which reinforce the superiority of “us” in comparison to the inferiority and evil of “them”. For most of our evolutionary history, the ability to sort people into those two camps was absolutely essential to survival.

        • MNb

          “Tribalism is a product of evolution. We naturally like to categorize the “us” versus the “them”,”
          Given the two times you suggested that I’m a (counter) literalist a la Dawkins on the site of the Sensuous Curmudgeon you yourself are not free of it either.

        • Michael Neville

          Thank you for scolding us so relentlessly. Just for curiosity, what’s the topic of your next sermon?

        • Greg G.

          Polls have consistently shown that 40% of the US are Christians who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old and about 45% are Christians who think the earth is old. The YEC crowd is not the fringe group the so-called “mainstream” Christians like to think it is. The YEC crowd thinks they are the majority.

          Just because you reject one part of the Bible does not mean every Christian rejects it so addressing all the ways Christianity is wrong one at a time is not over-generalizing. It is you who are over-generalizing that most Christians believe what you believe.

        • Michael Neville

          The Council of Trent and the King James Version both consider Mark 16:15-18 to be canonical.

        • Greg G.

          I think Mark 16:18 comes from:

          Luke 10:19 (NRSV)19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

          The central section of Luke (Luke 10-Luke 18:15) is thought to be based on Deuteronomy [C.F. Evans, “The Central Section of St. Luke’s Gospel.” In D.E. Nineham (ed.), Studies in the Gospels: Essays in Memory of R.H. Lightfoot. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967, pp. 37-53.] Deuteronomy 1 refers to events at Horeb which would be in Numbers 21:4-9 about a bronze snake on a pole that would prevent death from snakebite if the victim looked at it.

          Luke threw in the part about Paul being snakebitten on his trip to Rome which was invented by Luke and was based on Josephus’ story of his shipwreck in chapter 3 of his autobiography.

    • TheNuszAbides

      which one was JFK? 😉

  • John Patterson

    Yawn!!Why do people keep believing this overzealous windbag??I’m a Christian but I’m not a full blown fundavangelical!!I come from a long line of Baptists;Methodists and Presbyterians but my wife’s a Pentecostal.
    And whenever I see all that dancing in the aisles and talking in tounges and stuff,I just gotta go “WTF”??Part of me laughs my butt off at it while the other half still makes me go”WTF??!!”.
    “You want a toe??Hell I can get you a toe by this afternoon!!”-John Goodman”The Big Lebowski”.

    • If you’re not a Hagee follower then I can’t blame you. If you’re a Christian who tries to dissuade people from encouraging these blowhards by giving them money, then we’re on the same side of this issue.

      But as to your first question, why people follow this windbag, you’re in a better position than I am to answer it. Why anyone would continue to follow them after such a monumental failure is beyond me.

  • L.Long

    Easy to explain him! Very few if any REALLY read their book o’BS and NONE of them follows the rules of morality in it! Like the meme I saw …..open the buyBull at random and follow the moral rules on that page, the last person sent to jail wins!! So not killing a false profit is understandable, and sheeple will give money to anyone who helps maintain their delusions.

  • Aloha

    “Unembarrassable” — useful word. There seem to be quite a few of these individuals in the public sphere right now.

    • T-Paine

      Another word for “shameless”. 😉

  • MR

    Whatever happened to our buddy who was ready to hunker down in his garage with his radio as the world crumbled around him. Didn’t he promise to give up this shit if nothing happened?

    • Harold Camping’s 5/21/2011 rapture fiasco is relevant. After the rapture didn’t happen, he handwaved about some sort of invisible rapture. And when the world didn’t end that October, he finally admitted that he’d fucked up.

      • Michael Neville

        But he didn’t refund any money to his followers.

        • Wait … wha-a-at? But that would be immoral! It might even be fraud.

          I can’t believe a televangelist would do such a thing!

      • MR

        No, no, we had a commenter here, remember…, he promised not to follow those idiots anymore, or something, if some major event didn’t happen in the near future related to the four blood moons. He was sure he going to be hunkered down in his garage with his two-way radio listening to the world collapse. I’d like to see what cognitive dissonant story he’s come up with now.

        • Oh–I’d forgotten. Yes, I would like to check in with him to see how his batteries are holding out in his little bunker.

        • TheNuszAbides

          iirc his threshold for what would qualify as Fulfillment o’Prophecy was … loosely calibrated. e.g. an utterly unspecified kerfuffle in the Middle East: can’t see that coming without divine revelation (cwidt?) …

    • Max Doubt

      Guthrum… in this thread.

      [Guthrum – September 25, 2015] If we get through the next two months without some disastrous natural event, an economic collapse, or some middle east collapse, then I will stay off the prophecy sites and books.

      [Guthrum – September 26, 2015] I am talking here about game changers . I am talking about still being here in two months sitting out in the garage talking to friends on my two way radio.

      He’s back all the time. Totally ignorant. It’s like when he looks back at the stuff he writes he sees it in invisible ink. Christians are dishonest, some more ‘n others.

  • busterggi

    Basically people are stupid and believers doubly so.

    • TheNuszAbides

      well, let’s say their chances are not improved. and maybe Francis Collins is doing that deep cover agent thing …

  • StevenK

    Look at this, we agree – that guy is whacked.

    • MNb

      What are you going to do about it? He follows the same crucified miracle worker as you do.

      • StevenK

        What am I going to do? I’m going to ignore Mr. Hagee.

        • Michael Neville

          Why should we care what you do, Mr. Sockpuppet?

        • StevenK

          You shouldn’t. I was just replying to the question.

        • Michael Neville

          Who gives a damn about your sockpuppet ass, asshole?

        • When Steve/Steven speaks in all caps, that’s when he’s literally a sock puppet. My habit now is to replace his comments with nonsense.

        • Michael Neville

          How clever. Kudos.

        • Myna Alexanderson


        • Susan

          My habit now is to replace his comments with nonsense.

          You mean with different nonsense.

          It seems to have worked. Well done.

        • Yes, that. Thanks for the correction.

        • MNb

          Me likes it verrie mutsj.

        • Greg G.

          Didn’t talk.origins put a filter on certain trolls post that converted them into a Swedish chef translation like http://www.rinkworks.com/dialect/ ?

          Your post becomes “Vhee Stefe-a/Stefee speeks in ell ceps, thet’s vhee he’s leeterelly a suck pooppet. Um de hur de hur de hur. My hebeet noo is tu replece-a hees cumments veet nunsense-a. “

        • Thanks for the tip! Thinking up clever things for Steven to say is hard work.

        • TheNuszAbides

          oh, that’s what that was (saw a chunk of it preserved in a blockquote of yours). i’m embarrassed it didn’t occur to me after running into them for 30 years on BBSs & such. (eVeN AbUsEd uSeRs wItH It OnE DaY, aS An aIdE …)

        • Greg G.

          I ran some of the quotes through a Swedish Cook filter a few times when the mood strikes. I got some code and rewrote it into JavaScript, then added some stuff from other such filters.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you are the tongue of fire floating above his head!

        • Professor_Tertius

          “Why should we care what you do, Mr. Sockpuppet?”
          “Who gives a damn about your sockpuppet ass, asshole?”

          Seeing how you commented on StevenK’s posts, it looks like you do, Michael.

        • Michael Neville

          I see reading for context is not one of your strengths, Professor.

        • MNb

          And how is that going to remedy Mr. Hagee’s flaws?
          Ah well, forget it. Obviously you think atheist flaws way more important than christian flaws.

    • StevenK

      Are we having fun yet?

      • Greg G.

        This is the epitome of fun for a suppressed Christian.

        • TheNuszAbides

          careful, we’ll start actually feeling sorry for the chumps.

  • Professor_Tertius

    Excellent expose. Yes, even many Charismatics struggle with the hypocrisy and double-standards evident in Hagee and other full-of-themselves celebrity preachers—and non-Charismatics have been criticizing such show-off prophecy lunacy for years now. Some Charismatics movement apologists have actually gone to the effort to spin from the Biblical texts an excuse for post-Pentecost preachers practicing their “gifts of the Spirit” to be judged by a lighter standard than the Old Testament “Thus sayeth the Lord” prophets. Many of them would say in a case like Hagee’s, “He’s not worthy of death because he never proclaimed ‘Thus sayeth the Lord’, which would have made his ‘mistaken prophecy’ an actual blasphemy worthy of death.” (In my opinion, Hagee seems to come awfully close to “God told me this.” but they have to say something to calm the choir and keep them on board if they are actually reading the Bible for themselves.)

    Yes, it is a convenient escape clause. And some would further justify it using the Pauline “We see through a glass but darkly” as explaining why fallible humans like Hagee are subject to “imprecision” (LOL!) and even subject to deceiving spirits. It is basically a let’s-give-him-a-pass strategy that not only let’s him continue in the pulpit but excuses the Charismatic movement in general for not being consistently Biblical about false prophecies.

    Of course, there is some legitimacy to their claim that Gentile Christians today are not subject to the Mosaic Law of the Sinaitic Covenant. A modern day Gentile who is not a B’nai Brith (Son of the Covenant) citizen of ancient Israel has not pledged allegiance to its laws. Obviously, that is why the Bible is divided into the Old Testament (the “Old Contract”) and the New Testament (the “New Contract.”) Acts of the Apostles chapter 15 and multiple Pauline epistles make clear which provisions of the “Old Contract” were repeated as binding in the “New Contract” between God and his people. That said, Hagee often tries to play his game both ways, picking and choosing which contract (i.e., “testament” or “covenant”) he wants to apply at any given moment.

    • adam

      “Of course, there is some legitimacy to their claim that Gentile
      Christians today are not subject to the Mosaic Law of the Sinaitic

      ONLY if you ‘believe’ in Paul and ignore that Jesus fellow…

      • Wait … are you saying that the J-man was the first to make a false prophecy? Looks like Hagee is in good company.

    • You reject these “prophets'” shenanigans, and yet we’re both frustrated at the impact they have. How do you get evangelicals to drop their support of the Hagees of the world? And do you think that religious thinking makes it possible to accept nutty stuff like Hagee’s arguments?

      • Professor_Tertius

        “And do you think that religious thinking makes it possible to accept nutty stuff like Hagee’s arguments?” No. I think that being Homo sapiens and thinking makes it possible to accept nutty stuff.

        Accepting all sorts of “nutty stuff” comes easily to humans for all sorts of reasons without any particular category of thought (such as “religious thinking”) being required to do so. For example, my thirty-something neighbors came by this evening to invite us to sign a petition and join them in a protest against the vaccination requirements at the neighborhood school. Their belief in nutty stuff like “vaccinations cause autism” and the hazards of “the government’s chemtrails conspiracy” needed no help from religious thinking. How do I know that? They and another atheist couple (and a Unitarian couple) in the community removed their children from the local schools, all working together to home-school their children so that they can reinforce their own echo chamber of beliefs.

        Meanwhile, another neighbor a few weeks ago explained to me with great excitement that he’s invested heavily in a new wonder of Japanese engineering: a “free-energy” device based on Tesla’s “lost” technology. He worked hard at explaining to me that it is NOT a perpetual motion machine–which would be, in his words “laughably impossible”—but was instead an “above unity” machine. I think that too qualifies as “accepting nutty stuff” and he didn’t appeal to any religious thinking to support it.

        Humans accept “nutty stuff” for an enormous variety of reasons. It comes with the species and shows no signs of ending any time soon. Isaac Asimov wrote an essay on this topic long ago for which I wish I could recall the citation. James Randi picked up on it some years later in response to a study published in an academic journal. It was a prolonged and well-funded demographic analysis of all sorts of “nutty stuff” thinking and its universality. I think Skeptical Inquirer Magazine had an editorial about it. (Martin Gardner, I think.) They were looking for patterns of what they summarized as “superstitious thinking” (aka “nutty stuff”) in various kinds of people groups, everything from belief in fortune tellers to telepathy to “touch healing” to homeopathy to many more. I think Gardner’s discussion of the study was in the 1980 perhaps. (?) He was lamenting that even among skeptics at CSICOP, he was often shocked to find those who passionately pursued their “blind spots” and rejected the peer-reviewed scholarship which would inform them otherwise.

        If anybody else recalls the essay and can post a citation, I’d be most grateful. I’ve like to track down the original academic study.

        • MNb

          “I think that being Homo sapiens and thinking makes it possible to accept nutty stuff.”
          Now the question that intrigues me is: do you apply this to yourself as well?
          I do. That’s to say, I try hard.

        • Professor_Tertius

          Last time I checked, I was still a Homo sapiens.

        • MNb

          Unfortunately there are both members of that species who do try to apply it to themselves and members who don’t. So that’s not an answer to my question.

        • Michael Neville

          I believe you’re thinking of Asimov’s essay “The Relativity of Wrong”.

          Remember that google, while evil, is your friend. It took me less than a minute to find the essay.

        • Professor_Tertius

          No. I used that Relativity of Wrong essay as a class handout for many years. That famous essay said nothing about a study of how different types of people adopt all manner of superstitions, from avoiding cracks on side-walks to fear of the 13th floor of a building. “The Relativity of Wrong” was about the steady progress of science in explaining things better and better.

          All of the authors I mentioned lamented how common superstitions were among their own skeptic community (according to the study.)

          “Remember that google, while evil, is your friend.”

          Remember that reading comprehension skills are your friend. Jumping to conclusions without considering whether the first thought that pops into your head actually fits the description–or not–is your friend.

        • Michael Neville

          Remember that reading comprehension skills are your friend. Jumping to conclusions without considering whether the first thought that pops into your head actually fits the description–or not–is your friend.

          Oh like your sneer at me for responding to StevenK where you didn’t realize I was talking about what I thought he said concerning his ass and I responded “who cares about your ass.” Yes, that was a perfect example of jumping to conclusions without considering the context.

        • Professor_Tertius

          Those who sneer at others tend to make themselves vulnerable to sneering in reply. You’ll just have to learn to live with it.

        • Michael Neville

          I love it when some asshole throws down the gauntlet.

        • Gee, you have an odd way of saying, “Thank you.”

          Vive la difference, I guess.

        • Michael Neville

          All sorts of people believe all sorts of things. Yesterday I had to explain to a conservative that socialism and liberalism were not the same thing despite what his political masters had told him.

          But the questions still remain:

          1. How do you get evangelicals to drop their support of the Hagees of the world?

          b. And do you think that religious thinking makes it possible to accept nutty stuff like Hagee’s arguments?

          1 is a difficult question because most people whose minds are made up will resist mere facts and logic showing their conclusions to be in error. If someone thinks that Hagee or Pat Robertson or others of that ilk are right (Robertson claims that an asteroid will strike Earth but he isn’t specific as to when) because God whispered in their ear then it’s hard to persuade them that maybe God didn’t whisper.

          b is much more straight forward. Yes, if one is disposed to believe nutty stuff like a bronze age tribal god created the entire universe and is deeply concerned about your sex life then one is likely to believe other nutty stuff, especially if one believes that god is whispering in the prophet’s ear.

        • Professor_Tertius

          “How do you get evangelicals to drop their support of the Hagees of the world?” First, it is important to realize that most evangelicals (by far!) reject Hagee’s teachings. His followers tend to be various types of Charismatics. Secondly, you’re dealing with the very common human foible where so many people want someone else to do their thinking for them.

          We see this tendency in politics, economic systems, and countless other spheres of life, not just in religious thought. People tend to choose an expert or leader in whom they place all of their confidence, making that selection for all sorts of questionable reasons, and then blindly adopting whatever that “authority” says as their own belief Thus, even though someone like Richard Dawkins or Neil Degrasse Tyson exhibits woeful ignorance when pontificating outside of their fields of scientific expertise—such as in matters of philosophy or the history of western and Arabic civilizations—their dedicated fans will so often defend their amateur “factoids” and pop-myths with passionate abandon little different from that of religious people. Indeed, often times the very same people who chide Young Earth Creationists for ignoring the peer-reviewed scholarship behind the Theory of Evolution will nevertheless reject the consensus of the academy in matters of history, philosophy, anthropology, or whatever else at that moment seems to threaten their cherished personal ideologies. (We see this fascinating phenomenon, for example, in many online forums with the easily excitable Jesus Mythicists—a personal favorite of mine. In fact, if I were to turn the clock back over a half century, I’d seriously consider that topic for my dissertation: examining how the Internet and the cherry-pick-your-scholar and ignore-all-others bandwagon has revived the long ago discredited “Jesus never existed” movement of the 1800’s.)

          So in all such matters we are dealing with very primal aspects of human behavior which evolution has endowed upon the human species. Follow-the-leader blindness and cognitive dissonance are human foibles, and not the monopoly of a particular people group. (I find it fascinating how often such tendencies are described in religious terms even when the belief has nothing to do with religion, such as a peer-reviewed paper I just read on Lysenkoism.)

        • You’ve got crazy stuff in your camp. Stop dancing around and own it.

        • Michael Neville

          All I have to do to get a civil, reasonable response from you is prod you a couple of times. See, you don’t have to be an asshole all the time. Sometimes, when the stars are right and the wind is fair, you can be a adult instead of a pompous, condescending prig.

          You’re quite right that all too many people like others to do their thinking for them. However I consider that religion promotes this behavior. Many religions have a hierarchy where the people at the top dictate dogma to the laity. Popes, bishops, imams, mullahs, ministers, preachers, rabbis all tell the faithful “God wants this” and “God hates that” and “the holy book specifically says such and so which St. Wossname in the 10th Century interpreted to mean t’other and do you think you’re a better theologian than Wossname?”

          Incidentally, have you ever noticed that when someone claims to know God’s mind that God has exactly the same opinions and prejudices as his mouthpiece?

        • Susan

          it is important to realize that most evangelicals (by far!) reject Hagee’s teachings.

          On what basis?

          you’re dealing with the very common human foible where so many people want someone else to do their thinking for them.

          That is common and we’re all susceptible to it. That doesn’t make all claims equal.

          even though someone like Richard Dawkins or Neil Degrasse Tyson exhibits woeful ignorance when pontificating outside of their fields of scientific expertise—such as in matters of philosophy

          Specifically, where? How come all the arguments for “God” get special exemption in the field of philosophy but Richard Dawkins (for instance) is excluded from engaging? What’s your best argument against his philosophical thoughts? That he missed a detail in the jet engine? That he asked who made “God”?

          Blind adherence to authority is a human foible. Agreed.

          It is not exclusive to religious behaviour but religion gets to exempt itself from that observation. It sanctifies the foibles we agree are human. It doesn’t distinguish itself from our tendency to succumb to errors in thinking.

          It begins with its conclusions.

          Doesn’t it?


        • MNb
        • Whatever philosophy or worldview makes your neighbor fear “chemtrails” or vaccines is causing harm. Ditto a religious worldview that would make Christians give their money to charlatans like Hagee.

  • Professor_Tertius

    This Wall Street Journal article “Look Who’s Irrational Now” from 2008 mentions the academic study appearing in The Skeptical Inquirer in 1980 which I was trying to recall. It also cites Martin Gardner’s responding to the study in his 1983 book where he lamented the ubiquitous inclinations towards various kinds of superstitions among his atheist friends. (Gardner discussed how the decline in traditional religious beliefs among the educated appeared to have caused an increase in “nutty stuff” beliefs.) Mainstream journalists rarely do a great job when it comes to describing scientific studies but at least this article helps jog my memories of Gardner’s, Asimov’s, and Randi’s laments about the gullibility of so many of their atheist friends.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122178219865054585 includes this passage:
    “This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener,” skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.
    ____ (end of quotation) ____

    I don’t have my copy of the Garner book in hand but I assume it contains the specific citations I had requested from readers. My main point was NOT that non-religious people are the most susceptible to “nutty stuff” thinking (even though some of the studies cited on this topic make exactly that claim.) No, my point was that it is a trait of Homo sapiens in general to fall into nutty thinking, regardless of whether the particular human is religious or non-religious.

    Obviously, determining the definition of “superstition” and what types of thinking constitute superstitious “nutty thinking” is not a simple matter. But we fool ourselves when we try to pretend that particular people groups have a monopoly on nutty ideas.

    And that’s why I’m dubious about the academic studies which claim that non-religious people are more prone to superstition and “nutty thinking” than religious people. More likely than not, nuttiness will continue as long as the human species continues.

    • Professor_Tertius

      P.S. For those who will strain their knees jumping to conclusions, I cite the Wall Street Journal article NOT to endorse anything it says but simply to point out that others do recall the 1980 academic study which I remembered Asimov, Gardner, and Randi lamenting as they reflected on the science ignorance and gullibility of so many within the atheist and skeptic-community.

      If you don’t like the WSJ article, the 1980 study, and what Gardner et al said about it, don’t blame me. Personally, I remember finding some of the data-analysis of the study rather sloppy in terms of how labels like “superstitious” were casually adopted from American popular usage. (For example, I don’t recall them labelling a belief in transubstantiation as a superstition.) Of course, since I’m not the one claiming that various broadly-defined people groups are necessarily more superstitious than others, any such flaw in the study does not at all undercut my point.)

    • I’m not sure what you hope this will prove. To take one claim, “While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in [the occult or paranormal], only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.”

      But almost 100% of those who attend a house or worship believe in the supernatural! Who’s got the nutty beliefs now?

    • MNb

      “More likely than not, nuttiness will continue as long as the human species continues.”
      Yeah, a certain eminent biblical scholar who has written nonsense about the Fall of the Roman Empire and about the way medieval “science” compares to modern science comes to my mind. He hasn’t withdrawn it yet as far as I’m aware. On the contrary, on the first subject he preferred to write two reactions which were even nuttier, only to cling to his particular nuttiness.
      I especially like the (I paraphrase) “my students love the nuclear wasteland analogy and eventually we may or may not discuss whether it’s false” bit – after a certain MNb showed that it totally is.