People seem very excited about an upcoming Turkish game show, in which a Priest, an Imam, a Rabbi, and a Monk attempt to convert 10 atheists to their religions each episode. (If this reminds you of the religious joke to end all religious jokes, you are not alone.)

There are two things that are stopping me from joining the excitement. First, I don’t speak Turkish. And second, the show sounds terribly boring. Trying to sell people on a religion? How is that any different from the church shows that flood the airwaves every Sunday morning, the “Muslim Power Hour” that comes on public access each Thursday morning, or “Seinfeld”?

To that end, religious programmers, I offer you some alternative religious game show suggestions:


“Dumb David was so dumb–”


“He was so dumb, that when he became king of the Jews, instead of collecting 100 foreskins, he collected 100 ________.”


Starting with an answer (e.g. “God exists”), you have to make up an appropriate question (e.g. “What’s something I can believe in even though there’s no evidence for it?”).


“Remember, the category is FACT. And there’s only one letter left: ‘_OUR RELIGION IS FALSE’. Do you want to solve the puzzle?”

“No, I’ll guess a letter. Is there a ‘P’?”


Players compete to see who can bilk the most money out of credulous believers. Popular tactics include overpriced devotional text-message services, suicide threats, and faith healing.


We pit your religious scriptures against grade-school students to see who can correctly answer questions like “Is the earth 6000 years old?”


If you believe in Jesus, and you’re right, then you get an eternity in heaven plus what’s inside this box, but if you don’t believe in Jesus, and you’re wrong, you’ll get what’s behind door #3 (which is a goat).


“Introducing the Mohammed Family! Khadijah, Sawda, Aisha, Hafsa, Zaynab K., Umm Salama, Raihanah, Zaynab J., Juwayriya, Ramlah, Safiyya, Barra, and Maria, ready for action!”


Ben Stein asks you questions about evolutionary biology, and whenever you get one right he mocks you and acts as if you’re attacking him.


“And the next item up for bid is an indulgence! Manufactured by the Roman Catholic Church, it’s packed with some of the merit acquired by Jesus’s sacrifice. Get rid of those pesky temporal consequences, only with a genuine indulgence!

The one of you who bids closest to the retail value of that indulgence without going over has got some sin in your future! Now, what am I bid?”


I have to confess that I have entirely mixed feelings about the movement in France to ban the burqa. I totally agree that the burqa makes women into “prisoners” and is a primitive custom and is an affront to Western values like secularism and common sense and (especially) boobaliciousness.

At the same time, banning clothing is also an affront to Western values. Perhaps the burqa subjugates women, but the same charge could be (and has been) made against half the t-shirts in my wardrobe. Perhaps women are forced to wear burqas by their relatives, but is this so different from schools that force kids to wear uniforms, clubs that force men to wear jackets, or restaurants that force patrons to wear shirts and shoes? And if we let the government ban clothes, what will we let them ban next? Drugs? Guns? Machinima porn?

Anyway, those who are serious about banning the burqa are guilty of not appreciating its comedic value. Why, back when I worked in Hollywood, I had the idea of an entire cycle of burqa-themed short films.

One, for instance, involved a group of ninjas returning from an assassination and a group of burqa-ed women returning from the mosque, who bumped into each other on the sidewalk, after which one member of each ended up leaving with the wrong group. Hilarity ensued.

A second involved two kids who wanted to go into an adults-only establishment, so one sat on the other’s shoulders while they hid under a burqa. Hilarity ensued.

And a third was about a group of bank robbers who hid under burqas to disguise their identities, but who accidentally visited the bank at the same time as an overbearing sheikh, who mistook a robber for one of his harem and dragged him back to his palace. Hilarity ensued.

There were more, each funnier than the next. One involved a burqa and Carrot Top and Andy Dick, one a burqa and a “Soup Nazi,” and one a burqa and a child-molesting neighbor. It wouldn’t be unfair to describe them as art.

And do you really want to put yourself in the position of banning art?

Kudos to the Christian Post for uncovering a disgusting new form of child abuse:

American Christian kids as young as four are being [forced] to do extra chores and other fundraising activities to raise money to buy Bibles for U.S. troops.


“One of our goals at Focus is to instill in children a love for God’s Word, and this is a particularly [manipulative] way of doing so,” said Focus President and CEO Jim Daly.

I suppose we should be glad that Focus on the Family isn’t sending the four-year-olds to work in diamond mines, or making them sweep chimneys, or blinding them in order to make them more effective beggars.

Nonetheless, conscripting toddlers for hard labor and propaganda work is pretty despicable:

“It is good for Daddy to have a Bible to read in Iraq so he can have an [imaginary] friend there,” said 3-year-old Violet.

I hope you’ll join me and the Christian Post in condemning this!

It can be tough being a Christian. You have to believe all sorts of unbelievable things. You have to go to church every Sunday and listen to some preachy dude beg for money. You have to put up with brilliantly-written, riotously-funny, expertly-argued books patiently debunking your faith. (I suppose this one doesn’t really distinguish you from believers in any other religion.) And you have to tie yourself into knots trying to explain why the latest scientific discoveries explaining how the world works don’t actually contradict your millennia-old, rooted-in-superstition, alternative “explanations” of how the world works.

But you’re not alone in your struggle. The BioLogos foundation is there with you every step of the way (and when you see one set of footprints, that’s where they were carrying you).

Today, for instance, they’re offering “Three Ways to View the Fossil Record [that aren’t incompatible with your religious faith, even though (if you want to get technical) the fossil record isn’t compatible with your religious faith].”

  1. God created each species “individually from nothing” as time proceeded. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  2. God created species in “bursts” over time. (Note: not actually compatible with fossil record.)
  3. Evolutionary biology is the proper explanation for the history and diversity of species, but god has been continually doing the work behind the scenes. So, for instance, he’s always choosing which genetic material crosses over during meiosis, and he helps ducks decide which other ducks to rape, and he helps misdirect mooses he doesn’t want reproducing into having sex with horses instead.

Although the third theory is (vacuously) compatible with the fossil record, it presumes a level of perversity on the part of god that’s really more compatible with the jealous, kinky Old Testament god, not the effeminate, hippie New Testament god.

Accordingly, New-Testament-believing Christians might be better served by a fourth way of viewing the fossil record:

  1. Your religion is false.

This explanation does have the drawback of not being exactly “compatible” with the Christian faith. But this is almost surely outweighed by its virtue of being the correct explanation.

Make sure to come back next time, when we discuss “Five (Incorrect) Ways To Explain The Existence of Suffering”!

Sanford and King

I’m sure you’ve heard the saga of Governor Mark Sanford, whose adulterous Argentinian tryst briefly dominated headlines last week until displaced by the untimely death of OxiClean pitchman Billy Mays.

But now, with every TV network seemingly devoted to showing Hercules Hook ads and Vince Offer interviews, you might have missed the news that Sanford has begun comparing himself to the biblical King David:

“And what I find interesting is the story of David and the way in which he fell mightily, he fell in very, very significant ways but then picked up the pieces and then built from there.”

And it’s true there are some obvious similarities between the two:

However, there are a number of parts of the David story that Sanford has yet to fulfill. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in eagerly looking forward to the following:

Unless Bobby Jindal can pull another exorcism out of his hat, I think I know who I’m pulling for in 2012.

It’s always exciting when scientists are able to corroborate fictional stories. Who wasn’t thrilled when paleontologists found the skeleton of Moby Dick? Who didn’t get excited when epidemiologists were able to isolate the “Captain Trips” virus? What child wasn’t delighted when zoologists successfully trained a mouse to ride a motorcycle?

I felt that same sense of excitement today, when I read that scientific tests had confirmed that certain bone fragments actually belonged to the apostle Paul:

Benedict said scientists had conducted carbon dating tests on bone fragments found inside the sarcophagus and confirmed that they date from the first or second century.

“This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that they are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul,” Benedict said.

I suppose the Pope’s conclusion isn’t perfectly obvious unless you also know that

(1) The apostle Paul dated from the first or second century, and
(2) No one else dated from that time period.

But those are both pretty much common sense. Hooray for science!

Back when I attended Vacation Bible Camp (and won the Color War “homiletics” competition for my team three summers in a row) we used to think of “miracles” as things like “Sea Mysteriously Parts” and “Convicted Criminal Rises From Dead to Seek Revenge” and “Bread and Wine Magically Changes into Flesh and Blood Without Violating Cannibalism Taboos.”

But kids these days have debased the Queen’s English in a number of ways, like using nonsense words ending in “-izzle” and flambosting made-up terms like “hyphy” and abandoning all sorts of useful urination-related euphemisms, including “see a man about a horse,” “drain the lizard,” “squirt the dirt,” and “syphon the python.”

This same linguistic debauchery has happened to “miracle,” I fear. Nowadays it’s a “miracle” when the US Ice Hockey team beats the pants off of some commies. It’s a “miracle” when Mike (of + the Mechanics) gets his girlfriend back.

And, according to Randal Rauser, it’s a “miracle” when his friend dies of cancer:

The day that Paula died is, in the eyes of the world, a day for mourning and defeat. How different is the Christian story. Paula’s death was a miracle.

What an unorthodox sales pitch for Rauser’s god! While most people would regard Paula’s death as the natural (and sad) consequence of our current inability to cure cancer, Rauser shows us how to repurpose even the most horrific events into arguments for his theology. Although he was apparently too busy not mourning and not feeling “defeat” to give an example of an appropriate prayer for this situation, I have taken the liberty of helping him out:

Creator of the Universe, Puller of The Big Plug In the Sky, Great Eucharistic Euthanasiast, Exalted Cosmic Kevorkian, Divine Mercy Killer, You Who Put Us Out of the Misery That (In Your Infinite Wisdom) You Have Bestowed Upon Us, Murderous Imaginary Nut, Blessed be You! Way to kill!

And I’ll try to use this new, expansive definition of “miracle” next time something horrible happens to one of my loved ones. (“Remember that necrotizing fasciitis my cousin got? They amputated his arm! It’s a miracle!”)