Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Religion of Writing: Part Six -- The Prosperity Doctrine (an IWSG post)

For thousands of years, we have had the belief that god, whatever god it happens to be, rewards the just and punishes the wicked. If something bad happens to you, you must have displeased god and are being punished. If something good happens to you, you are being rewarded, which shows that god favors you. Even more, if you are rich, through whatever means, god really, really likes you, so you must be one righteous dude and, therefore, you are justified in whatever behaviors you've been doing to get ahead even if they're wrong. God wouldn't be rewarding you unless you were doing what he wanted you to do, right?

There's something primal in that belief, no matter how ill-founded. It goes right along with that whole "beautiful angel"/"ugly demon" thing. We tend to forget that Lucifer, the head (and arguably worst) demon is also described as the most beautiful being in creation. [And we forget that whenever anyone in the Bible ever saw an Angel, the first response was always the wetting of the pants. Or loincloth. Or whatever. That was followed by the Angel saying, "Do not be afraid."] So it's very attractive to believe that rich people are somehow better than everyone else. If, that is, you are rich. European culture survived off of that belief for centuries. And, if you're not rich, you want to be rich so that you can finally be proven correct in your internal belief that you are, in fact, just as better than everyone else as the people that are already rich.

The prosperity doctrine started getting popular in the United States in the '50s, but it really took off with the charismatic movement and televangelists in the 1980s. The basic idea is that God wants you to have health, wealth, and happiness. The only problem is that, well, you have to pay for it. Now, there's all kinds of theological background and stuff I could go into here, but that would be a whole series of posts all by itself. So let's just put it like this: Just like with the whole Pentecostal thing of having to speak in tongues to get to go to heaven, the prosperity doctrine cherry picks just a few passages upon which to base the entire philosophy. [The central passage that's used is an Old Testament passage that they pull completely out of context.] What it boils down to is that people who are wealthy are "good" and everyone else is not. Which, of course, pushes the "nots" to try harder and give more, making the wealthy richer and "gooder" and everyone else "notter."

I'm pretty sure most of you out there would not say that having lots of money (success) makes a person somehow better than those that don't have lots of money, but that's not how we act. And, more importantly, that's not how they act. Rich people tend to act as if they are inherently better than other people. More valuable. More deserving. The money they have doesn't make them better; they have money because they are better. The cream, as they say, has risen to the top.

And we believe that in publishing, too, even when it's glaringly obvious that the cream does indeed not rise to the top. Unless we are now claiming that Twilight and its ugly step-sister Fifty Shades of Grey are the cream. If that's the case, well... actually, I'm not sure. If that's the cream, then there's no real hope for humanity.

The truth is, in most cases, the best books go completely unnoticed. There can be many reasons for this, none of which are important (and would take too long to list); the main thing is realizing that the statement, "the cream will always rise to the top" is a falsehood. Or, maybe, it's not, but, then, books aren't cream. The point is that the "best" things most often do not enjoy the most success.

Most of the people in the world that are the most "successful" are not people we would say are the best people. Sure, there are a few good ones, but most of them got there by taking advantage of other people or stepping on other people or cheating or lying or maybe even just dumb luck. And, no matter what people say, cheaters do not always lose. The most successful hamburger in the world is not one that I think anyone other than, maybe, Briane Pagel would say is the best. And it got there by just being the same anywhere you buy it. Which is no small feat, but it's hard to not find a "better" burger (although some might argue that its sameness does make it the best). And the best books... Well, the best books get run over by the ones that appeal to the masses. Like those hamburgers. They succeed not by being good but by being the same. Simple language. Simple, straight forward story. Plain.

Which is not to say that exceptions don't come along. Things like Harry Potter and Middle Earth succeed despite their "goodness" by being something new and different. Novel. (heh pun intended) But Rowling has proved to us that "good" does not equal success with her experiment in publishing under a pseudonym. The cream does not always rise to the top.

All of that to say that a lack of sales does not mean that your book is not good. And massive sales does not mean that it is. Books sell well for one of two reasons: 1. The author has put a lot of work into writing books and become known through being a steady and dependable writer. 2. Luck. The book just happened to be at the right place at the right time. So to speak.

But, still, we like to worship success here in the United States, so I'm sure we will continue to use such statements as "the cream will always rise to the top" and, even worse, continue to believe those statements.

What I want to say about it is that you shouldn't rate your "creaminess" on whether you're on top or not.

Today's post has been brought to you in part by Alex Cavanaugh and the IWSG. The rest was all me.


  1. You're right, the doctrine of prosperity and crass commercialism began in the US in the 50's and I mean the whole country, not just religion. It was the beginning of the end for the US. We adopted that silliness for a while and it destroyed us. Thank God we're poor again.

    No, there is no justice here on this earth. The good get trampled and don't always come out on top. That idea was sold by Madison Avenue and the Protestant work ethic.

  2. What you said about people, most people is spot on. To see it in action all you have to do is go to a party, a wake, jury duty - anywhere people gather - and watch people sidle up to anyone there who is wealthy.

    But I don't see why you say it began in 1950. It seems to me it has always been true. It's effect on our lives varies greatly depending in part on how much we let it affect us and in part how we make a living.

  3. People think the rewards come here is the reason. Some do, but most come in Heaven. And that itself is the greatest reward.
    The best books aren't always successful.
    I'll just chalk mine up to luck then.

  4. It's always interesting to me too how once an idea gets started the masses follow like obedient sheep. Take the Fifty Shades of Grey books as an example. The writing was poor, the story was overdone and the scenes were played again and again, yet with the right marketing people jumped on that bandwagon. Nobody wants to look like the odd man out so everyone follows the trend.

  5. Trash does sell in any era but it's the good stuff scholars appreciate that survive to become "classics."

  6. Great post! One of the hardest things to do (for me) as a Sunday school teacher is damage control. I have to tell kids/teens who have had the "prosperity" message shoved at them from all sides, that no where in the bible does it promise that living a Christian life will be all butterflies and rainbows. Actually, it is quite the opposite. Just check out what happened to all of the disciples. How they were stoned to death, ship-wrecked, jailed, whipped, sawed in two, crucified upside down, yeah. None of them went around preaching and promising mad riches to anyone, this side of heaven.

    I also happen to agree with you that just because a book is popular and has achieved lots of success and fame, that it is well-written and even deserves that level of recognition.

  7. History is full of pieces of art that were ignored or dismissed in their own time that are pretty well loved now. And the opposite has played out many times too.

    Oh, I'd point out that Pentacostals as a whole don't view speaking in tongues as necessary for getting to heaven. I think the Apostolic denomination specifically holds to that doctrine. And of course individual opinions may vary in other groups - but as a matter of official church held beliefs, those are the only offenders that come to mind.

  8. Some writers are very good marketers. That's a factor. Luck happens when we put the work in.

  9. It has to do with the orientation of the life map. If you believe monetary gain is the top, then, yes, Twilight and Gray are the top. My map is oriented differently. Happy IWSG Day!

  10. So all that encouragement my grandmother gave me growing up about "cream rising to the top" was a load of crap? I think I'll just go have a good cry now. :P

  11. Definitely not. It's well proven that excellent stories and writing never see a publisher simply cuz the timing is not right.
    I've never considered wealthy people better in any way. I think it's pretty obvious that the opposite is true in many cases. And interesting to point out that Jesus came to Earth as a lowly carpenter without any worldly goods, therefore confirming the wealthy have no quicker avenue to God.
    But I get what your'e saying. Human nature tends to put wealthy people upon pedestals, and that is and will always be our downfall.

  12. Anne: Yeah, a lot of things changed in the post-war years; you can even see it in cartoons like the Jetsons, which, in all actuality, was very much about having things. So was The Flintstones, now that I think about it. Of course, we all thought we'd be living like the Jetsons by now.

    David: I mean the Prosperity Doctrine as a specific thing and a thing within the church really got going in the 50s. It does go farther back, but, as a thing, it found a home in the 50s.

    Alex: Well, when people would rather have $1 today than $10 tomorrow, it's no wonder that people can't grasp the idea of rewards in heaven.

    JKIR,F!: I've never been a very good sheep.

    PT: Too many people were never recognized during their own time periods.

    jaybird: Yeah, in fact, it says pretty explicitly, "If you follow me, you will have hardship."

    Rusty: Well, no, just like the Baptists don't believe that it is baptism that will get you into heaven; however, they believe that if you have had the Holy Spirit come upon you, then you WILL speak in tongues. If you have not spoken in tongues, then you don't have the Holy Spirit. No Holy Spirit=no heaven. So, for all practical purposes, speaking in tongues is how they judge whether you're in or not.

    M Pax: See, I am not a good marketer. At all. But, then, I think most marketers are probably not very good marketers either.

    MollyMom103: Well, they are definitely on top of the quantity map. It's a good thing that doesn't relate to quality at all.

    L.G.: Have one for me, too.
    You know, maybe the issue is that most authors just want to milk the cow (write the book) and then watch the cream rise, but I don't think it quite works that way. Never mind, I don't know what I'm talking about. I've never milked a cow. Maybe, it just does rise up all on its own.

    Pk: Paul had to talk to the early a church a lot about not putting the rich at the front and making all the poor sit at the back or outside. In fact, he said it should be the opposite. But, still, that's what they wanted to do, treat the rich all special and stuff.

  13. What an interesting post, Andrew. I totally disagree with the idea of God rewarding the good and punishing the evil. My philosophy aligns more with the book "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People"...life is painful and God can't stop the pain but God can be there for us to help us through the pain. I believe in a loving God, not a punishing God.

    I don't think I view authors with better sales as better than me, though I do get jealous and insecure at times.

  14. I'm not sure how to really respond to that. Not entirely anyway, If you're saying that the implication of the whole 'baptized in the holy ghost as evidenced by speaking in tongues' belief system is that those are the only folks that get into heaven - then I don't really have a point of contention (because I'll grant you that - but a hermetical belief system excludes pretty much every religious group on earth, in my opinion - some cognitive dissonance is required in almost anything related to faith).

    But if you're saying that most Pentecostals actually believe the baptism in the holy spirit is required for entry into heaven, then I'd take issue with your statement. Because that simply isn't true. They tend to think of it more along the lines of, "If you're not baptized in the holy ghost, you can still get in - you're just not having that 'next level' experience."

    And that's pretty much where it ends. I say that as someone who spent years hobnobbing with the Church of God leadership - the second largest Pentecostal group in the world, behind only Assemblies of God, who are almost theologically identical - that no one involved at any level in those organizations (and that includes academics and full time ministers) that I've ever met actually believes what you said they do.

    And I mention it now, as close to authoritatively as I ever get, because that sort of conversation comes up ALL THE TIME in those circles. I've probably had that conversation two dozen times in my life with folks in authority within the Church of God (and to an lesser extent, the Assemblies of God.)

    I did bring up the Apostolic denomination earlier because they really do proclaim that salvation only comes after the tongue speaking begins...which is the third and final rung on your getting into heaven thing (the other two being repentance and baptism (in Jesus name, btw, they're into the oneness thing, not the trinity). The rest of Pentecostals tend to shun them just a tad, much the way they do snake handlers.

    When you spoke about speaking in tongues a few weeks ago, I wanted to chime in on the subject, but stuck to lurking, as I agreed with your conclusions anyway, so no point in just being contrary. But since you mentioned it again, I thought I'd blubber for a few minutes.

  15. Of course, cream does rise to the top, the fat is lighter than the milk. But that does NOT necessarily happen in life. Oh, and I liked Twilight, never read 50 Shades, can't be bothered with it. What makes a book become popular, who knows? I have an author friend who has written 10 published books and her first is still more popular than the others, she wishes she could figure out why.

  16. Jennifer: I've heard of that book, but I haven't read it. If you look at Job, even Job's friends claimed that he must have done something really bad and that God was punishing him. Job knew that wasn't true even though he didn't know what was going on.

    Rusty: I think we might be dealing with the gap between the view of the people at the top vs the view of the people at the bottom. It may be true that church leadership does not actually believe those things, because they have a better grasp of the nuances, but the mass of people doesn't understand that stuff and will believe the simplest explanation: speaking in tongues=going to heaven.

    My personal experience tells me that the mass of Pentecostals believe that you have to speak in tongues. I or my friends have been told too many times that we were going to Hell because we've never spoken in tongues for to believe that the mass of people don't believe that.

    Now, most of my personal experience is with Assembly of God churches and actual Pentecostal churches (maybe they don't have those anymore?) than with the Church of Christ. However, I worked with a guy from a Church of Christ church when I was a freshman in college, and he used to tell me all the time about how I was going to Hell, which was too bad because I seemed like a pretty good guy and believed the right stuff, but, evidently, God didn't want me because he refused to send the Holy Spirit to me to make me speak in tongues.

    Also, the pastor of a church I was youth pastor in a while back came out of a Pentecostal church. The church he'd started was non-denominational, but he made that decision because he wanted to become a mega-church and didn't want speaking in tongues to get in the way of growing the congregation. His view was that if anyone "really" got saved, they would speak in tongues. They're money was good enough either way, though, but he didn't really believe any of the people he was preaching to were actually receiving God.

    So, on the one hand I see what you're saying and you're probably not wrong, but, on the other hand, I'm not wrong.

    Jo: Yeah, I know the theory of how that works, but, once I started writing, I realized I couldn't remember if you just let it sit until it happened or if you had to do something to it to make that happen.

    What's the book?

  17. Havenstar by Glenda Larke (originally Glenda Noramly when first published) a book I am very fond of and just had a hard copy sent to me from Oz from Glenda and lo and behold my name is in the acknowledgements. I was thrilled. However, I have had the paperback for several years and I also got the ebook which I proofed for her as it was full of typos.

  18. Someone advised me not to look at others' ratings. What's the quote from...? 'Do not compare yourself with others. You will become vain and bitter, for there will always be those better and worse than you.'

    (I am laughing at your prior post that involves going to a crab restaurant and, crab not being available, settling for clam chowder - your wife - or a sandwich - you. Definitely an anticlimax!)

  19. Well, individuals all make up their own minds about things. Although The Church of Christ is adamantly against speaking in tongues (and music in the church) - there may be Pentecostal groups that have a similar name, I'd imagine they are relatively small groups.

    As for the Assemblies of God folks that have said that... The soteriological underpinnings of their faith is well established - either those folks are off the ranch, or there have been some major upheaval in the theology behind the church in the years since I was involved.

    You know, Jim Jones was an Assemblies is God minister at one time.

    Regardless, fun stuff all around. I only have one friend that will talk doctrine with me nowadays, it's fun to reminisce. Too many folks get really emotional about this sort of thing.

  20. We tend to forget that Lucifer, the head (and arguably worst) demon is also described as the most beautiful being in creation.

    I always knew my wife was the devil.

    *studio audience goes AWWWWWWW*

    **winning so many brownie points right now**

    My brother-in-law is a millionaire with every material item he could ever want and a blonde plastic girlfriend that could be a supermodel. God didn't reward him because he's a good person. My bro-in-law is a huge douche, and I can't even stand being near him.

    His parents, meanwhile, live in near poverty, and they ARE great people. Again, not being punished by God, they're just not being helped out by their son who could more than take care of them now (but he would rather have something stupid like the new Lamborghini Aventador, blah blah blah).

  21. I think it depends on how you look at things. The Bible tells us not to "put our faith in man, but in God" and I never saw success as coming from God as much as coming from mankind.

    For those of us who believe such things, the rewards come in Heaven and not on Earth.

    I still think the cream rises to the top, in one way or another, but I like your analogy.

  22. I love this series so much. The health and wealth doctrine is alive and well here in CO. We have many mega churches that are thriving because of it. The Bible clearly says that IF we believe, we will be persecuted. It does NOT say that we will be wealthy. In fact, Paul's letters promise us much adversity if we follow Christ. I have a friend who justifies her behavior with, "But God wants me to be happy!" Um, it never says that. God wants us to believe in Him.
    Now to compare all this to the publishing industry is quite fun. I think being successful is a combination of who you know, how novel (hahaha) your idea is (Harry Potter) and how many lemmings will follow you. So many great books go unnoticed while drivel like 50 Shades is read by almost everyone. Though real cream rises to the top, books aren't cream. It's unfair, but then again, God never said life would be fair :-)
    Tina @ Life is Good

  23. I'm going to comment as I go along because I read your first paragraph and thought "WHOA, what if that's actually HOW IT WORKS?"

    I mean, we all tell ourselves (as least those of us who believe in God) that God works in mysterious ways and that life sometimes isn't fair and that's why Kim Kardashian, Awful Person, gets to go to Greece while I have to go to Home Depot and use my savings account to buy a new garage door.

    But what if God DOESN'T work in mysterious ways? What if God is up there just saying "Nope, Paris Hilton is acting exactly the way I wanted all of you to act, I don't know how you all screwed up the message so bad, but if you acted more like her you'd be rich and famous, too?"

    That's weird to think about. I think as people we HAVE to believe in a God that is fair, and just, the way WE want to think of fair and just, i.e., a God that really does want good things to happen to good people. So we look around and say "Well, God is perfect, so He must be fair. On the other hand, God is letting Aaron Rodgers make $120,000,000 per year and Aaron Rodgers is an awful person, so maybe God rewards people NOT ON EARTH, but IN HEAVEN." And that all makes sense to us.

    IF, though, you think "God is all-powerful but apparently is not playing by the rules I wish HE would use, as evidenced by Aaron Rodgers, Paris Hilton, etc.," and work from there to work out what God's rules REALLY ARE (at least hypothetically), that is a chilling concept: God would be arbitrary and capricious in that model. An all-powerful arbitrary capricious person who works in unknowable ways but not with any grand design to reward the good and punish the bad: Just unknowable.

    I'm not saying I believe that. I'm saying if you stop for a moment and pretend YOU believe that, what then? What does that say about morality and who should act good and who should act bad? If God is just random, it wouldn't necessarily pay to act good OR bad.

    If you remove the promise of divine reward or punishment from the equation, to me, morality is still the same: it's still wrong to steal, or lie, or cheat. But would everyone view it that way?


    I get your point, though: The post where I pointed out that was the best was a thought experiment on how you decide things are the best, an inherently subjective question, via an objective measure. There is no way to do so, of course -- unless you simply use 'how many people have heard of that thing,' which was the measure I proposed.

    But I disagree a bit: sometimes things that are unusual rise to the top. Not often, but sometimes. "Lost" was an example.

  25. Should've read further. You just said what I just said.

    I saw an article that hypothesized that Rowling's colossal publicity stunt was actually her attempt to see if lightning would strike twice, to test whether she was really that good or just lucky. I guess that answered THAT question. ("Just lucky.")

    I like to think that if you measure success by your goals, rather than by other people's goals, you'll be happier. It's a version of "do what you like and the money will follow," which is to say: decide what you REALLY LIKE about something and then do as much of that as possible.

    So I REALLY LIKE telling stories, and I REALLY LIKE supporting myself in a stable job. That's why I don't try to support myself by telling stories, but I work in a job where I can support myself, and have time to tell some stories.

    That's not "the cream rises to the top," but it does provide a different measure of success: I am successful, as a lawyer, and as a writer, and as a husband/father, each by varying measures of success.

    (Now, ON TO VICTORY IN FANTASY FOOTBALL, which you should join.)

  26. Jo: I'll check that out when I get a chance.

    Diana: Well, I think my wife wanted the clam chowder, so that was okay. She loves that stuff.

  27. Rusty: D'oh! That's right; that was the guy that was telling me I was going to Hell for listening to music. See, I've been told so often that I'm going to Hell that I lose track of the "whys" of it. Interestingly enough, I had a friend in high school who was Church of Christ who played the guitar. Her parents didn't approve, and she had to keep it a secret, but no one from her church went to our school, so she played some at school.

    Here's the thing:
    If you go talk to any Southern Baptist minister, they will tell you that you don't -have- to be baptized to be saved; however, if you tell them you are saved but not baptized, they will want to know why and be disapproving of you for not being obedient and being baptized. It's why the Baptists look askance at the Methodists and Catholics and all those sprinkling people. And, even though the Baptists no longer say out loud that Catholics are going to Hell, I'd bet good money that most of them still believe it, especially the older ones.

    At any rate, I think the divide falls in between the people that are learned enough to understand that you don't -have- to do X to be saved but the practical application of X in church is that you do, so the "common" people believe that it's required. I mean, I can't tell you how many people I've known and grew up with or whatever who believe they are saved -because- they got baptized. That was all that was required. And I can't tell you the number of Pentecostals I have known that believe they are going to Heaven -because- they spoke in tongues. That was all they needed to do.

    But, you know, if you step into any university setting and ask those people, that's not the answer they will give you. Their answers will be much more complicated.

    And just to make it clear because I may not have been clear, the people I was talking about in that other post were actually just from old fashioned Pentecostal churches. Pre-Assembly or anything else. Just plain old Pentecostal. And they certainly believed, all of them, that all of us Baptists were gonna burn. But, before we did, they were gonna use our gym.

    ABftS: LOL
    I won't tell her what you said if you don't.

    It sounds like your BinL is one of those entitled... well, I have to censor myself. I bet -he- feels like he's more deserving and better than everyone else, though, right? Including his parents.

    Mark: Well, you know, maybe it does, but, like, what good did it do van Gogh since his cream didn't rise until well after his death? As people, we don't tend to look that far ahead; we only look at right now. So, if you're not a best seller, it's because you're no good.

    Tina: You know, I don't think God really cares about our happiness. At all. Seriously. Which makes me very unpopular when I say that in a church setting. More people ought to pay attention to Solomon who said it was pointless to chase happiness. For happiness to be any good, it has to come as a byproduct of other things you are doing, not because you are trying to please yourself.

  28. Briane: You know, the truth is, we really don't know how it works. Any of it. BUT...
    That's why it comes down to Jesus. It's not about making a decision about what you believe in God, because, really, how could anyone even begin to comprehend God (which is why it always makes me laugh hysterically (on the inside) until I cough (on the inside) (which more than kind of hurts) any time anyone says they -know-). It's all about whether you believe you believe in the stuff Jesus said, and, if you do, there are some basic things you can come away with. One of those very basic things is that Jesus set himself against the rich and prideful. That, at least, gives me hope.

    I would never question the dominance of the McDonald's cheeseburger. It is, after all, an established fact.

    What you're saying there at the end is why I write my stories the way I want to write them: without a bunch of feedback or focus groups or beta readers or whatever. I need to write a story that I like if I want to feel like I've written something that's good. If I'm trying to make it be something that other people like, I'll end up with something like Goodkind or Jordan, which ended up being crap. Or something like Twilight, which started out being crap. So, yeah, those things made a lot of money, but they're not -good-.

    (In thinking about your football thing, and after mentioning it to my wife, I might be interested if we do it in a "you cut, I choose" method.)

  29. I actually couldn't agree more with what you've said here. Profound post, Andrew.

  30. I know there is a lot of crap out there, but I am glad that some cream does rise to the top.

  31. Well, honestly, I didn't know there was a denomination called Pentecostal. I did grow up as a Christian (the denomination - an offshoot of the Church of Christ, a very liberal branch, which is still pretty conservative by any reckoning - and it was always tough to explain that I went to a 'Christian' church. which, by the way, did insist that water baptism was necessary for salvation) But my reference was to the Pentecostal movement (as part of those infamous Azusa Street revival) was not a reference to a specific denomination, but the multi-denominational group that identifies itself as such.

    BUT - my point, which I may have forgotten somewhere along the way, is that it probably is more wrong to say Pentecostals insist speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation. In fact, the Oneness movement, which I mentioned earlier, splintered out of the Pentecostals, and DID insist that speaking in tongues was necessary for salvation, and it has been a point of contention for 100 years between the two groups (that, and the whole trinity thing).

    But the last stat I heard on the topic, mentioned that something like 60% of people who call themselves Pentecostals do not speak in tongues at all. It's sort of like smoking cigarettes at a night club, it might be cooler if you did, but you don't have to in order to get it.

    So, I'm not dismissing your point about telling a baptist that you're saved but not baptized. Some folks just follow the logic train and arrive at a destination.... it might just take different people to different locations.

    However, I'm not making any judgement on what anyone believes about anything, I'm just trying to make a delineation between groups. It's always seemed funny to me, that no matter what religious group that forms, in an astonishingly short amount of time, there are splinter factions that claim the group they came from got it all wrong.

  32. Michael: Thank you.

    MP: Well, yeah, some but not much. The last thing at the top that I would actually call cream was Harry Potter. I can't think of anything that's been popular since then that I would actually think of that way.

    Rusty: Well, yeah, the actual Pentecostal denomination is what everything else comes out of, and it goes back quite a ways. That group, the original group, is who I was talking about. And, then, of course, I haven't done any study on any of this in years.

    And I agree with you on splinter groups. At some point, there was a break in the Mormon church because the new group decided the new Jerusalem would descend a few blocks over from what was originally thought. People will disagree over anything.

  33. What a thought provoking post.
    I think that 50 Shades, which I've not read, rose to the top of the heap because rumour got around that the focus was sex, and people love a dirty novel. That, I believe is the whole reason. When it comes to dirty books no one really cares about the quality of the writing.
    Of course there are much better written books that did not get the same attention. That's because folks were all a buzz over this 'dirty' book.
    I've not read any Twilight or Harry Potter books either, and that's solely because the subject matter doesn't interest me. I've heard though, how JK Rowling is a superior writer when compared to Stephanie Meyers.
    As for all this god talk, as someone who does not believe in any god, it is my opinion that bad things happen to good people for the same reason that they happen to everyone. Because stuff happens.
    When I was taking part in a grief group recently, I heard so many people state their belief that their loved one was taken because 'God needed him more than I did, and God only takes the best.' That statement would only make sense if only all the 'good' and 'best' people were 'taken'. The fact is that everyone dies, good, bad and indifferent. In the end, 'bad' things happen to everyone.
    I know some people have more than their fair share of rotten luck. Some even have more than their fair share of good luck. Life is not fair and that's a fact. Neither of these states has anything to do with the opinion of an invisible man living in the sky.
    Also, I believe that being a decent human being has very little to do with being rich or poor. I've known wealthy people who were awesome humans and poor people who were total douche bags, as well as the other way around. The stereotype seems to be that poor people are always cloaked in some blanket of altruism and the rich are always assholes.

  34. Hey Andrew - I would challenge you on your statement that the pentecostal movement came out of a single denomination of the same name... The Assemblies of God and The Church of God in Christ formed immediately after the Azusa Street Revival ended (split among racial lines) and some of the denominations, like the Church of God, existed previous to their affiliation with pentecostalism - some of their leaders attended the revival and came away speaking in tongues and such, then the concept spread inside the denomination until it was part of their doctrine... the point being, the movement wasn't affiliated with a particular denomination in the beginning. So, when someone describes themselves as Pentecostal, it's similar to saying they're Evangelical, or Protestant, or whatever other subcategory of Christianity they might choose, but it is not a formal denominational boundary.

    Of course, any group that wishes is free to form a denomination and declare themselves as "pentecostal,' but that wouldn't make them representative of the entire movement, which, last I heard, was something like 500 million worldwide, which is ridiculously large... actually, that sounds way too big... I'm going to look that up, maybe I misheard...

    ...Damn, depending on the source... 250 mil - 600 mil... a 10 second look at adherents (my go to for all things related to stats on followers) has it at about 480 mil... anyway, that's approx 1/4 of all folks that identify themselves as Christian worldwide. That's a huge number of people.

    Anyway, I forgot what took me down that tangent now.

  35. Eve: You're right in that being a decent human is not determined by wealth. There are plenty of poor people that are complete dirtbags, because, the truth is, most humans are just inherently selfish and self-centered. However, I'm not really talking about whether a person is a "good" or not but their attitudes about their worth. Like, recently, when even Reese Witherspoon declared, "Do you know who I am?" You're not gonna find a lot of non-wealthy people who are gonna have those words coming out of their mouths.

    Rusty: Man, you made me have to do some research. Darn you! I wish I knew where my own materials were so that I could figure out what I'm talking about from what I've already said.

    1. Yes, I didn't say correctly what I meant about the origins of the various Pentecostal denominations. What I meant was that Pentecostals pre-date all of those denominations, and that is the group from which they sprang. Yes, there was a Pentecostal movement, and it was from that all of the denominations coalesced out of.

    2. I was probably thinking about Charles Parham, one of the central figures in the early Pentecostal movement (without whom, many believe it would not have taken root), who did preach that speaking in tongues was the manifestation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That belief is still alive and well in much of Pentecostalism to the point where it is required as evidence. Possibly, it's regionalism, but those are the only Pentecostals I have ever known, and, having been involved in church work for much of my life, I've dealt with more than a few. It has perhaps lead me to believe that that thought is more widespread than it is, but I do know it was the prevalent thought in the Pentecostal churches in the Shreveport area back when I was doing church work there. And it's what I've run into out here in CA, too, amazingly enough.