For-Profit Faith

by | November 21, 2021

By James Haught

Among sleazy occupations, is anything worse than big-money evangelists with their private jets, garish diamonds, piled-up hairdos and $5,000 suits?

A new book, to be released April 27, is PreachersNSneakers: Authenticity in an Age of For-Profit Faith and (Wannabe) Celebrities. It exposes TV pastors “who get rich off of preaching about Jesus.”

It’s written by Ben Kirby of Texas, a born-again Christian who watched gospel television and noticed that many leaders flaunted outlandishly expensive clothes and shoes designed for the super-wealthy. He posted his findings on Instagram and drew 200,000 viewers. Now he has turned it into a book.

A Washington Post report said: “In 2019, Kirby posted a picture of Pastor John Gray wearing the coveted Nike Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers, selling at the time on the resale market for more than $5,600.”

Astounding. What kind of narcissist pays $5,600 for a pair of shoes? The Post added:

“Kirby has showcased Seattle pastor Judah Smith’s $3,600 Gucci jacket, Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes’s $1,250 Louboutin fanny pack and Miami pastor Guillermo Maldonado’s $2,541 Ricci crocodile belt. And he considers Paula White, President Donald Trump’s most trusted pastoral adviser who is often photographed in designer items, a PreachersNSneakers ‘content goldmine,’ posting a photo of her wearing $785 Stella McCartney sneakers.”

A report by London’s Guardian added:

“Pastor, author and religious personality John Gray appears in a recent post… sporting a Gucci sweater that cost more than $1,100. In another photo, Pastor Steven Furtick sports a pair of thousand-dollar Saint Laurent boots.”

More than a century ago, sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term “conspicuous consumption” for the flagrantly rich who paid glaring sums to show off their wealth. It became a popular label of contempt.

When preachers do it, there’s a double reason for contempt — because evangelist money comes from gullible believers who are sold a fantasy of make-believe. The megachurch message says an invisible god will reward worshipers (donors) in an invisible heaven after death — and burn others in hell. Intelligent, educated, modern people know this is a fairy tale. Religion isn’t true. Its purveyors commit a form of fraud.

I ask again: What’s more sleazy than a sharpie wearing $5,600 sneakers paid for with money from naïve believers?

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*Associates and resources listing last updated May 31, 2020.*

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

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Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

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Image Credit: James Haught.

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About Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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