Holy Snake Oil

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Grinseed's picture
Holy Snake Oil

Ten thousand poverty affected and superstitious people are drawn to attend a prayer meeting in a sports stadium.
A promise of health and wealth with 'holy oil' that is poured on the ground and in the rush and crush to be anointed, twenty are killed, including five children. Sixteen injured.

After the mayhem a short time later, the man responsible, Pastor Boniface Mwamposa, who proclaimed the miraculous power of this 'holy' oil, is found at the nearby international airport attempting, the government claims, to leave the country, and he claiming to be dutifully headed to the next prayer meeting in Tanzania. (What people? Killed where?)

And behind it all is the prosperity gospel of the apostolic Pentecostal Church, which ironically enough got its start in 1906 as a world-wide religion, through the Azura Street Revival in Los Angeles, with another pastor, one William J. Seymour, an African-American, also born and raised in poverty by his emancipated parents.

The Pentecostal church (not all, I know a minority reject it) rely heavily on the proselytising power of targeting the material desires of the oppressed. I wonder if they realise the monster they have created with this prosperity gospel bullshit? And what do they think of the unambiguous Mark 6:19-24 which ends with "Ye cannot serve both God and mammon."

I'd like to see the scripture that says their christian god will reward followers with material riches and good health in this life (see Cowper below), the new testament stuff, and not the often quoted cherry-picked old testament Judaic wish-fulfilments. No doubt their apologetic will have this covered.

"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;"

Written by William Cowper (1731-1800) just before he attempted suicide by drowning after a depressive illness.) Mysterious ways, indeed.

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boomer47's picture


Have come across the 'prosperity gospel' before. I think it was that teaching which led an American Televangelist to assert he just HAD to have a private jet, because god couldn't hear his prayers on a commercial flight . ( I kid you not)

That whole idea smacks of "The Secret" crackpottery which claims the universe will provide whatever you want, if you know how to ask. It was of course on Oprah Winfrey's list of recommended books.

Haven't done so, but I suspect a look at Oprah's list of recommended books would be fascinating.

I first ran into the idea in 1969. Read a book called " Bring Out The Magic In Your Mind" by a stage magician, Al Koran.

The book is still in print.This from Good Reads, which gives it a 4.5 star rating :

"Bring Out the Magic in Your Mind
by Al Koran
4.17 · Rating details · 133 ratings · 14 reviews
Here is the key to the amazing untapped powers in your own mind... secrets that can transform your career and life. You don’t have to be a magician or a ‘brain’ to command these mental resources. If you only learn to employ your own natural magnetism, using the techniques of this book, you can gain amazing influence over others, and ‘will’ your way to business and social ...more"

Al Koran (1914–1972) was a British mentalist, author and inventor.[1][2][3] He invented the Ring Flite and popularised a version of the Bagshawe deck which became known as the Koran deck. Al Koran was the stage name of Edward Doe, who was a former hairdresser that turned professional magician/mentalist. Al appeared many times on The Ed Sullivan Show. He emigrated to the United States in January 1969, first to Cleveland, Ohio, and then later settling in Chicago, Illinois. After his death from cancer, his ashes were handled by his friend and fellow magician Billy McComb.


LogicFTW's picture

A lot of people hold Oprah Winfrey in high regard.

Because she gives away some tiny fraction <1% of her enormous multibillion dollar fortune away? (Usually in highly publicized event that advances her brand/image upon which she relies to amass her billions?)

She has at least 7 homes, combined to add up to around 50,000 square feet total.

Never understood the general public's idolization of obscenely rich people. It should be a huge negative, not a positive that someone is a multi billionaire while other people starve or go without shelter.

She is a great rags to riches story, but, then you think based on her early life background that would make her even more aware of the enormous inequality her huge wealth represents. Does she really need 7 homes? A private jet? Maybe she does, but her being labeled one of the best philanthropist of our times, is abuse of the word philanthropy. More like rich person privilege using philanthropy in token amounts to further her own wealth.

And then of course she is deeply religious, which all of us know here know, means: facts and actual data is not very important to her if it is inconvenient to her.

She obviously does not actually care about the environment eithir based on her actions.

CyberLN's picture
She has also said that

She has also said that atheists cannot experience awe and wonder without a god...and I imagine it would need to be her god.

ilovechloe's picture
The 20 people killed & 16

The 20 people killed & 16 injured weren't the pastor's fault. This happened as retribution because god is still very angry that Australia legalised Same Sex Marriage 2 years ago! God also caused the bushfires in Australia, & the Corona virus in China for the same reason!

Kevin Levites's picture
Don't get me started on

Don't get me started on Pentacostalists!

As I said in some earlier comments in a different context, we have Pentacostalist congregations in Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and parts of Mississippi where snake handling is a part of the religious service.

They pick up venomous snakes (usually eastern diamondback rattlers, water moccasins, copperheads, and canebrake rattlers) and torment these confused, frightened, and aggressive animals as an expression of faith that God will watch out for them.

I cringe (for many reasons) whenever I hear about this.

I was a paramedic and worked in EMS for almost 12 years, and I know what I'm talking about when it comes to venomous snakes.

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the most dangerous snake on the North American continent (The coral snake is often quoted as the most venomous snake in North America, but there's a difference between "the most venomous snake" and "the most dangerous snake". Coral snakes are gentle, passive, and shy. The eastern diamondback can have a temper.).

I started working in healthcare in the late 80s some years after the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and I remember how the Christian Right (including the very vocal Pentacostalists) were demonstrating against gay people, how we all had to protect our children from homosexualist influences, and so on

One question always occurred to me . . a question that I have never been able to get a satisfactory answer to.

If we must protect our children from seeing gay people together, as kids can turn gay if they see homosexual behavior . . . how come we bring them to a church where they can see a minister (a role model for the community) handle venomous snakes? Why aren't they afraid that their kids will emulate this behavior, and possibly die when they encounter venomous snakes outside of church?

I--as a paramedic--have transported kids who were bitten by water moccasins. On a few occasions, they were doing this because of what they were exposed to in church.

Why aren't all of the Christians who protest against gay people to "protect their children" also protesting against churches that have snake handling?

The link below from Time magazine leads to an article about snake handling by Pentacostalists.


Grinseed's picture
@ Cranky,

@ Cranky,
The Secret was lampooned in a show from the D Generation Late Show where Tony Martin and Mick Molloy employed the technique of The Secret in various shops and stores in Melbourne.

They followed the instructions to the letter: imagine its yours, ask God to make it yours, visualise it yours and just walk out of the shop in confident ownership. It worked everytime until security showed up.

@ Ilovechoe,
I have it on the best authority that cockroaches were involved somehow but I can't recall where I read that.

@ Kevin Levites
Sorry Kev, I know the Pentecostalists annoy the fuck out of people.

I am particularly pissed with our Pentecostalist prime minister who went to Hawaii for a holiday while his country was burning and has spent more time on his return exonerating himself for his wilful mismanagement of our nation's resources in the midst of a national crisis, than doing anything competently to assist or protect against future emergencies..
As a Pentecostalist he denies climate change, having stripped funding for the nation's bush fire fighting services, ignored the warnings of experienced fire chiefs last year and still actively promotes the export of coal.

He is eagerly awaiting the imminent return of his long-overdue lord so he doesn't really give a shit about temporal things like the environment, the planet or the national economy or those who do not believe in his god. Nor does he care for social services which have a long and proud history in this country of providing help and assistance for unemployed and handicapped people, you know, like charity, because his poxy religion insists that the poor are poor because they are lazy and degenerate and, the real insult, they are being tested by his god.
This is all part of that prosperity gospel lie. Of course he does not express these sentiments outside his church and continues to project his likeable 'good old uncle Scott image' which is starting to unravel as more people lose their lives, homes and livelihoods in the wake of these bushfires.
Not surprisingly his administration is currently struggling against charges of corruption, mismanagement, incompetence and discrimination. And the consistent substance of his lies are becoming more apparent.
Even less suprising is the claim made by observers that of all the secular and religious charity organisations providing money, food and clothing to the bushfire victims, the Pentecostal church has provided almost nothing, adhering to their usual process of only providing for fellow church members and that everyone else in trouble is being tested by their shit of a god as mentioned above.

God forbid Kevin that I get you started on the Pentecostalists, I have already said enough, but we all really need protection against these clap happy dreaming idiots. I think I despise them more than the Christadelphians who brainwashed my brother and his family. At least the Christadelphians adhere to scripture enough to keep their insane beliefs to themselves and stay the hell out of politics. I'll get off my soapbox now before my head explodes.

Delaware's picture
@ Grinseed

@ Grinseed

In general I agree with what you said.

But I think you are wrong that "behind it all is the prosperity gospel of the apostolic Pentecostal Church."
Do you have a reference for this claim?
Can you name one major Apostolic Pentecostal organisation that endorses the prosperity gospel?
What was the Azusa (not Azura) street revival all about? Did it have anything to do with prosperity?

Apostolic's focus is to get back to the "apostles doctrines" instead of what was added to, or taken away from the church, in the 2,000 years since.
The prosperity gospel started in the 1950's, long after the 1906 Azusa street revival.
They may have some surface Pentecostal traits or connections, but they are widely condemned by Pentecostals.
Yes, shamefully there are some, like Oral Roberts. But it is mostly the televangelists.

The prosperity gospel is mentioned in the Bible. Here are a few.
"..depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, [who imagine] godliness is a means of gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim. 6:5-10).

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
"Apostles Doctrines"

"Apostles Doctrines" ROFLLMFAO

You don't even know who the alleged apostles were....Jo, Jo Jo.....do some reading ......there is no clear information as to who the "apostles were, and certainly no contemporary information on what they believed, said or did, how they died, and importantly if they ever existed at all!

The gospels themselves disagree with the names amongst themselves giving rise to the risibly apologetic "known by many names" furphy. John gives a different list and also includes the "beloved" disciple...who the fuck was that then?

The tradition gives 12 disciples/apostles for no good reason at all. Not including the "apostle" Paul who never ever even met Jesus and does include Mathias who famously gets one line mention in the bible and nothing else so who knows what that poor bugger believed....if, like the others he ever existed.

You really should start from some scholarship Jo, not your usual third hand pastors wishlist. Ignorance trips you up every time.

Just to keep you straight Jo, here's a quote from a christian site: It encapsulates what I wrote from a christian perspective...without the bible goggles you wear:

"A few of the apostles were known by multiple names, which can make these lists and other references to them confusing. In some cases, disciples with common names have been mistakenly identified with other biblical figures who had the same name.

(For example, Philip the Apostle is definitely not Philip the Evangelist, who appears in Acts 6:5, Acts 8:5–6, and Acts 21:8.)

Much of what we “know” about the apostles comes from church tradition. Unfortunately, tradition often embraced legends alongside facts, and it’s often difficult to discern details about where the disciples went, what they did, and how they died without assuming the legends surrounding them are rooted in truth. This is especially true for the more obscure disciples.

Today, many Christians simply accept tradition (and therefore the legends) at face value. But if we care about truth and claim to represent it, we have a duty to examine this information more critically, and we need to be willing to accept when we simply don’t know something. https://overviewbible.com/12-apostles/

Note this sentence Jo: But if we care about truth and claim to represent it, we have a duty to examine this information more critically, and we need to be willing to accept when we simply don’t know something.

Something, maybe, you should spend time improving in yourself.

(Edited to add citation and extract.)

boomer47's picture
@ Kevin Levites

@ Kevin Levites
"Sorry Kev, I know the Pentecostalists annoy the fuck out of people."

Indeedly doodly. I once shamed myself by threatening to punch a newly minted pentacostalist at work. Often, at whim, he would loudly proclaim "Praise the Lord!" It was not only inappropriate, but it got on me wick. I had also asked him politely to cease and desist but he ignored me. :(

Tin-Man's picture
@Cranky Re: "...he would

@Cranky Re: "...he would loudly proclaim "Praise the Lord!" It was not only inappropriate, but it got on me wick."

At that point, I would likely start shouting, "Hail Satan!', or maybe, "Praise to the Dark Prince Lucifer!" at random moments throughout the day. Especially if the guy happened to sneeze regularly. But, hey, I am rather warped like that sometimes... *snicker*...

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Tin Man

@ Tin Man

Not as fun as your solution, but I had a similar occurrence in a show I was doing with one of the actors continually muttering "praise jesus" , prayers and asking younger cast members and crew to pray with them. If we had been doing 'Godspell, or Josephs technicolor Dreamcoat" etc I would have let it ride, some actors need shit like that to get into character.

Anyhoo after the 5th performance and a request from him that "we pray for the success of the program, the crew and the cast" I politely asked him to desist. He looked utterly shocked and asked "but Why? I am only..." which is as far as he got. Itold him "one more word sunshine, and I am going to the Stage Manager, if you keep it up I will goto the Producers, Now shut the fuck up unless you are running lines"

He didn't shut up, even though the rest of the cast and crew (much more direct than I ) told him to STFU in varying terms. Went to the Producer, they came backstage ( husband and wife team) listened, watched and gave the guy his cards right after the show.

In the aftermath it turned out these two were staunch churchgoers, loved the arts and were not prepared to let a looney tune spoil their shows......

I saw the nutter months later yelling christian slogans at passers by in the street. I didn't stop.

Kevin Levites's picture
When it comes to religion, I

When it comes to religion, I take the view that you can swing your fists all you want . . . except that freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.

I have no problem with religious people in my workplace, except where it prevents me from doing parts of my job (see earlier posts).

I also have an issue with the snake-handling aspect of the Pentacostalists.

People get bitten every once in a while, and it is a completely avoidable cause of death and disability.

I also have a problem with Christian fundementalists who campaign against the teaching of evolution in school.

They resent the idea that we are related to apes (in fact, there are many anthropologists who maintain that humans are a specific species of ape).

And--going back far enough--the "primordial ooze".

The primordial ooze part doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

After all, whenever I look at a lawyer or a politician . . . I see living proof that human beings are descended from slime, LOL.

Tin-Man's picture
@Kevin Re: "After all,

@Kevin Re: "After all, whenever I look at a lawyer or a politician . . . I see living proof that human beings are descended from slime,"

You should be ashamed of yourself, young man, comparing lawyers and politicians to slime! That's not a very nice thing to say about slime. What did slime ever do to you?

MTheory's picture


The attached article is from Psychology Today. It discusses how religious fundamentalism is a mental parasite.


Yale Divinity has also launched a Public Bible Study. These Ivy League Biblical Scholars do Not believe in Supernatural Jesus. Professor Joel Baden was instrumental in implementing this peoject. Harvard Divinity has also launched The Religious Literacy Project. Please consider listening to their podcost Ministry of Ideas.

Delaware's picture
@ R F

@ R F

The article also states that "In moderation, religious and spiritual practices can be great for a person’s life and mental well-being."
Do you agree with that statement?

The author is making a straw man argument by lumping all fundamentalists together, and then misrepresenting most of them.

Most fundamentalists do NOT believe in the "absolute authority of their leader".
I don't, and most I have known over decades do NOT 'discourages any logical reasoning or scientific evidence...".
In fact, I embrace both.
Most I know would say something like the old adage that there is no contradiction between science and the Bible.
If I see a supposed contradiction, than it is my understanding of the Bible or science that is at fault.

The Ministry of Ideas you mentioned says "it is dedicated to investigating and illuminating the ideas that shape our society."
It is not a "Public Bible Study." Do I have the right site?https://www.ministryofideas.org/about

Nyarlathotep's picture
Jo - Most fundamentalists do

Jo - Most fundamentalists do NOT believe in the "absolute authority of their leader".
I don't...

Are you saying that your god isn't your leader, or are you saying you don't believe in the absolute authority of your god?

Delaware's picture
@ Nyarlathotep

@ Nyarlathotep

I don't believe in the absolute authority of any human leader.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Jo - Most I know would say

Jo - Most I know would say something like the old adage that there is no contradiction between science and the Bible.
If I see a supposed contradiction, than it is my understanding of the Bible or science that is at fault.

What about the contradictions that involve the bible giving different numbers to describe the same event? Like the age of someone when they became king?

Delaware's picture
@ Nyarlathotep

@ Nyarlathotep

The difference between 18 and 8 may appear as a contradiction, when you just give it a cursory reading.
It could be that the "1" got accidentally left off during copying.

You may also have noticed than one verse says he reigned 3 months and another 3 months and 10 days.
Another "contradiction" or is one verse giving some additional information?
One is giving the rounded number, and the other some additional details.

This is also is probably what is going on with his age when he became King.
If a King wants someone (Jehoiachin) other than his first born son to take the throne.
The King would anoint or appoint Jehoiachin before the Kings death
Perhaps when the person is a child, say at the age of 8.
Upon the death or abdication of the King, Jehoiachin would then become king, say at the age of 18.

Nyarlathotep's picture
The difference between 18 and

Jo - The difference between 18 and 8 may appear as a contradiction, when you just give it a cursory reading.
It could be that the "1" got accidentally left off during copying.

8=18 is always a contradiction. Miscopying numbers is a great way to form a contradiction.

Delaware's picture
@ Nyarlathotep

@ Nyarlathotep

I did not say "8=18".
8 for the year he was named as the King, 18 for when he ascended the throne.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Jo - I did not say "8=18".

Jo - I did not say "8=18".
8 for the year he was named as the King, 18 for when he ascended the throne.

Earlier you suggested it was a copying error. Which is it?

LogicFTW's picture

Real curious to his response on this one.

Tin-Man's picture
@Nyar Re: 8 vs. 18

@Nyar Re: 8 vs. 18

Not sure what the problem is here. There's a perfectly logical explanation to all of this. Obviously, Jo's Perfect God is lousy with numbers. I can totally picture the poor little scribe sitting at his desk, quill pen in hand, bottle of ink within easy reach, all eager and ready to dictate the holy words of God's Divine Message for all of humanity. When, suddenly, the Almighty voice of The Lord begins to speak in his head!...


Scribe: (falling out of chair in sudden jolt of surprise. cringing on floor.) "Yes, my dear Lord. But could you speak more softly, please?"

God: (turning knob on control board) "Oh, sorry. Just recently got this new amplifier, and I thought nine was a lower volume setting. I have it on three now. Is that better?"

Scribe: (unsteadily rising from floor. returning to sit in chair.) "Yes, my Heavenly Father. Thank you. My Lord, I was expecting you at 7 this morning. Yet, it is now 2 in the afternoon. I have been patiently awaiting your arrival all day."

God: (confused look) "But it IS 7, my child"... (looking at watch. showing watch to scribe)... "See? Mickey's little hand is pointing at the 7, with his big hand pointing straight up."

Scribe: (looking at watch. getting nervous.) "Uh, but, my Lord... Um, the short hand of the little mouse is clearly pointing at the 2."

God: (re-examining the watch) "Ah. Yes. So it is, my humble servant. My sincerest apologies. I always get those four numbers confused with each other."

Scribe: (perplexed look as if in a trance)

God: "So, tell me, my child, where did we last leave off?... Hello?..."... (waving hand in front of scribe's face)... "Hello?"...

Scribe: (suddenly snaps out of confused stupor. shuffles through papers on desk) "My Lord, we had just completed Genesis chapter 4 during our last session."

God: "Excellent! Then we shall now start the next chapter. Are you ready?"

Scribe: (dipping tip of quill in ink bottle) "Yes, God."

God: "Okay, here we go: Genesis, Chapter fifteen, Verse eleven..."

Scribe: (faceplants on desktop)...

David Killens's picture
@ Jo

@ Jo

"Most I know would say something like the old adage that there is no contradiction between science and the Bible."

Science follows the evidence and attempts to make a reasonable explanation for phenomena. The bible and religion just make up shit and will ignore evidence if it contradicts their religious dogma.

Delaware's picture
@ David Killens

@ David Killens

No, that is not what happens with me and with many Christians.

If some evidence "contradicts their religious dogma", I ask questions.
Is it my understanding of the evidence, or my understanding of the Bible, that is wrong?
That is what is meant by the adage.
Not the straw man argument that you made.

David Killens's picture
@ Jo

@ Jo

"Not the straw man argument that you made."

It was not a straw man. You proposed that your bible and science could be compatible, while I described their opposing positions.

"If some evidence "contradicts their religious dogma", I ask questions."

With science, each result has a paper that can be read, and one can follow the procedures and experiments just like the original. Science offers anyone the opportunity to study, attempt to replicate, and disprove any proposals.

Religion is almost the complete opposite, edicts are handed down, and there is no method in place to examine or test any claims from the bible.

If you approached one of your church leaders and asked what methods are available to determine if jesus was real and divine, expect nothing more than an appeal to faith and to read the bible.

Ask a scientist, and that person would lay out many different methods, all valid and designed to produce answers.

Grinseed's picture


I stand corrected and admit my error of spelling Azusa incorrectly. It was written in haste and abiding annoyance with my dishonest Pentecostal prime minister in mind.

Prosperity theology has a bad reputation these days because of its obvious contradiction to what is believed to be the teachings of Jesus and no church I am aware of endorses it openly.
However, here in Australia, Brian Houston, family head of the highly politicised Apostolic Pentecostal Hillsong Church, published a book, "You Need More Money - Discovering God's Amazing Financial Plan For Your Life." The idea is that rich christian are able to do more effective witnessing by example, and through their wealth. How is this not a blatant plug for prosperity theology?
The suggestion is that diligence and hard work isn't enough. To get real money you need his god.

In any case, I don't really care if its Classical Pentecostalism or Charismatic or Neo-Charismatic or apostolic and Oneness, or evangelical and Trinitarian or any of the many variants of the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, the Church of God in Christ or the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. The point is that in combination with nearly all other protestant faiths and even the Catholic church, there is always evidence of some sort of temporal reward for faithfulness in their dogma. "God will provide."

My point is that all religions in every country, promise all sorts of impossible rewards both for this life and after death, which are just unbelievable and unsubstantiated.

And just briefly, far worse than any prosperity propaganda is Christian Dominionism. It is a fact and most apostolic and evangelical churches support it. It necessitates the merger of state and church. It is as great a threat to individual secular freedoms as that posed by Islam. As a humanist I detest both.

Delaware's picture
@ Grinseed

@ Grinseed

I do not want Dominionism, and I don't think most support it. Do you have a reference.
I am sure it is not in the Bible.
I do not want my country allied with or against any religion, or humanism, or atheism.
But then it depends what you mean.
If a country being more Christian means it is more loving, than I am for that.
If a country being more humanist means more human freedom and progress, than I am for that.

Kevin Levites's picture
directed @Tinman

directed @Tinman


Good one.


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