ARC Bill a Welcome end to Ministerial Meddling

Science & Technology Australia Media Release Legislation to abolish the Ministerial veto on…

Renovating the World

By Maria Millers It seems that the world we inhabit has become more…

Major class actions launched against Queensland government over…

Bottoms English Lawyers Media Release First Nations children and parents have launched landmark…

The Rise of the Desk Clerk Academic

It is a particularly quotidian breed in the modern, management-driven university. The…

Elections demand transparency to halt schemes by Christofascists…

West Australia’s council elections seem a strange place to pinpoint a warning…

SAC takes on CPAC

By Brian Morris Secular Australia justifiably expects equal media attention to that given…

Why Anthony Albanese Must Go!!

Don't you just love the ambiguity of language? I mean it helps so…

Anthem for Tomorrow’s Child

By Roger Chao Anthem for Tomorrow’s Child Dear child of mine, a seed of…


Pentecostalism: A personal perspective

Of the many articles I have read about Pentecostalism on this site and in the mainstream media none have captured the inner machinations of the church.

I can assure you that the church has just as many scandals and intrigues as any other organisation, or political party for that matter.

In this piece (and subsequent instalments) I will attempt to paint a picture of the inner workings of the church in everyday language. If I used church language you would think me unintelligible.

Please note that I am writing this not with any angst against the church, but simply to give another person’s perspective.

My personal experience (part 1)

Of late, many articles on these pages and in mainstream media have appeared purporting some knowledge of Pentecostalism. All have lacked a lived experience. I have spent 20 or more years in fundamentalist churches so I think I can claim some knowledge of their workings.

There has been a surge of interest in Pentecostalism and its members in recent months. The association with it of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has mostly sparked an interest in this Christian community.

Why is it that religion assumes it has some bizarre ownership on people’s morality? To assume that an atheist is any less moral than someone religious is an absurdity.

But it is not just Pentecostalism. The Prime Minister has taken religion into the precinct of politics and there is an answer to why he has done so.

The answer to it is that religion or at least the Christian religion is likely, in Australia; no longer exist in the next 20 to 30 years. Someone must try to save it.

The 2016 Census doesn’t paint a very rosy picture for faith in Australia. If the figures are repeated in subsequent censuses then over time religion – as we have known it – will gradually fade away.

A Uniting Church minister friend of mine recently said to me that Christianity had been successfully sidelined.

I’m more inclined to the view that knowledge has done so.

Nearly 7 million Australians (roughly a third of all Australians) are now ‘no religion’. They make up the biggest category, overtaking Catholics who fell to 22%, and more than double the number of Anglicans.

39% of people 18-34 are of ‘no religion’ and there is no reason to expect people will become religious as they get older.

A third of Australians as ‘No religion’ represents a huge shift from 50 years ago, when the vast majority of Australians were Christian.

It’s the first time:

“… in Australia’s history the number of people who claim ‘no religion’ has overtaken Catholics.

The latest Census drop showed those ticking “no religion” rose from 22.6 per cent to 29.6 per cent, while those identifying as Catholic dropped from 25.3 per cent to 22.6 per cent.”

The Sydney Morning Herald sent journalist Jacqueline Maley along to the church that the Prime Minister worships at to observe just what all the fuss was about.

She highlighted the smiling faces she saw and the positive vibes of the service.

The Guardian‘s Elle Hardy in her experience, emphasised the popular appeal of Pentecostals who have (she purports) developed historically “with less content, more show.”

Hardy caricatures Pentecostals as religious entrepreneurs with an inspirational message and a product to sell.

Hardy’s piece asks; “Is there any substance behind the ‘trendy image’ projected by Pentecostals?”

Well, all their observations are correct to a point. Yes indeed they try to portray a positive image. But there is much more to it than just an image.

With 20 or so years in charismatic churches I feel qualified to fill in the gaps left by pastors who like politicians fall for the lying by omission trend in society.

So allow me to put you straight on a few things.

Charismatic – fundamentalist – Pentecostal or churches of that ilk all believe in a literalist belief in that the Bible is the absolute truth and word of God. Literally so. Something I could never comprehend.

They not only believe it but also practice it. Preachers will bend the truth and cherry pick scripture to uphold a literal version.

If there is a conflict between scripture and science then scripture and the literal version of it wins.

The truth is though that in any Pentecostal congregation you will find any number of variations in how individuals interpret scripture. This applies in any church.

The preacher may preach the official theology of the church but there are many different voices that will interpret the spoken words in their own way.

The only areas that I can think of where science is questioned are in the religious fever of climate change doubters, conservative politics and unconventional religious belief.

Unlike mainstream churches who have a better more worldly understanding of life, Charismatic churches seem to attract folk of a more simple disposition who are even more susceptible to the word of the Lord in charismatic form.

I was always conflicted by my belief in the politics of social justice and conscience as opposed to the literal word of God.

Issues of sexual equality, gay marriage, the rights of women and civil rights in general. Free speech, Aboriginal rights, sexual harassment, the rights of the child, the environment and climate change, domestic and family violence, equality of opportunity in education, asylum seekers and multiculturalism, always seemed to be fighting with a very right wing conservative thinking and voting church.

I recall speaking at a men’s breakfast on the subject of women’s rights many years ago. Scripture was thrown at me in literal form left right and centre.

A friend who happened to be a paramedic told me on the way out that my thinking was far ahead of these guys and it was true. Having a view that contradicted scripture was like stepping on broken glass.

Another time I recall telling a pastor that I was a democratic socialist and that I believed that Jesus was the world’s first socialist. I put up a pretty good argument but the look on his face was one I will never forget. You mean you are a communist.

Yes, Pentecostals are on the far right of politics although the leadership will tell you they are “A” political.

Pentecostalism thrives in the lower socio-economic areas of the US and third world countries.

Jacqueline Maley’s observation of the smiling faces she saw and the positive vibes of the service are true but the attending flock is no different to any other group in the community.

Families have the same family issues, child problems, disputes, employment issues, people with businesses have issues and teens have their problems with schooling and the list goes on and on.

They come from a diverse range of backgrounds

The difference being that they all believe that in God or the pastor or prayer they will find the answer to whatever ails them.

The church tells them this is so but many fall by the wayside when their needs aren’t met. Or they shop around for another church with a Pastor sympathetic to their needs.

More often than not sermons are nothing more that inspirational words designed to make one feel better about oneself and the problems that confront you.

The truth is that prayer isn’t what its made out to be, the pastor isn’t qualified in all these matters or God doesn’t hear them.

When an answer isn’t forthcoming then the default button of “it isn’t God’s will” is pushed and that seems to resolve everything.

Pastors are more often than not are just ordinary people who complete a Biblical course and qualify to preach God’s word.

Having achieved that status they believe they have a spiritual gifting that has been bequeathed on them by God, but few have any extraordinary qualities.

They are often just ordinary men and women unqualified to deal with the many social issues of the congregation and the times.

I believe that a commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, is the best way of providing solutions to human problems. That does not however mean that faith doesn’t have a place.

Unlike mainstream churches where ministers are required to complete a much more rigorous theological education pastors are, after being ordained, encouraged to start their own church.

After all, their entire mission is to save souls. The conflict here is that the souls to be saved are in the community and the church encourages its members to be totally involved in the church. In Bible study, music, drama, different courses and other ministries. All of which lock you into the church.

Dr Jacqueline Grey, in Crucis reports that:

In her visit to Horizon Church in suburban Sydney, Jacqueline Maley met various members of the congregation and staff. This included the media manager, Kristy. Kristy is described as “a pretty blonde woman with a soft floral scarf floating around her neck and a brilliant, bone-white smile.” From this definition, you would expect a person whose highest qualification is an Instagram account. Yet a basic internet search reveals that Kristy is an ordained pastor, serves as Executive Pastor at Horizon Church and preaches regularly. She is also on the board of an international aid agency and has degrees in Arts and Education, as well as a Masters (International Studies) from Sydney University. The theology of her preaching on a church podcast emphasises hope amid suffering. While this female Pentecostal pastor is dismissed in the Maley article as a “pretty blonde”, there is more substance behind the image than the reporting allows.

Similarly, the Hardy article harshly critiques Pentecostalism as essentially “peddling spiritualised self-help.”

If you read the Bible with literalist intent it becomes the only text book on living never updated but if you read it with logical reasoning and an exploratory mind all manner of things of historic and literary value are revealed.

This is entirely correct. Worshippers are spoon-fed first class pop music by first-class musicians, sermons by first-class speakers preaching a gospel of total self-righteousness self-help therapy.

All backed up by the hundreds of authors who write books effectively proclaiming they have an insight into God’s will that others don’t.

Is it superficial? Yes, it is. After all, it is a carrot and stick religion. Do good and you go to Heaven, do wrong and you go to Hell.

“If it were only that simple?” I hear you say.

My thought for the day

Science has made in my lifetime, the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Donate Button


Login here Register here
  1. Mark Grieveson

    A fair assessment of practices that have puzzled me (apart from the obvious social support) for a half century. I look forward to your next instalment & hope you can comment on why evangelicals support en masse such obvious reprobates as Trump

  2. johno

    I went to something similar when I was in my late 20’s, Assembly of God I think. I was there because I fancied a women who invited me. Once was enough, just felt weird. Give me a walk in the bush or a kayak on the ocean any day, nature and the great outdoors is my church.

  3. Keitha Granville

    Pretty sure JC taught that god is wherever you need him to be, not just in a building or with a particular label. And you’re right, I think he was definitely a socialist, and he caused massive upheaval in his own faith, Judaism, because he could see they were governed by money and power not god.

    I admire people who have a strong faith, I can’t understand it at present to be honest with the way the planet is hurtling towards destruction. Especially when the world leaders who are at the head of this mostly claim to have a strong faith. Hypocrisy.

  4. nonsibicunctis

    All religion is literally a man-made construct. All religions are dangerous and harmful to socieities which adopt them and all people in and outside of those societies, whether they are believers or not.

    All religions can be traced back through the ages to the earliest times of recorded history. All bean with paganism which itself represented simply human attempts to explain their world and its natural phenoma.

    The three monotheist religions that developed, i.e. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, all developed around the supposed interactions of ‘prophets’ with ‘God’. The thinking that launched those religions accommodated a variety of gods and, in fact, human beings have worshipped more then 4000 different gods over time.

    All of these religions depend on a variety of texts and often different interpretations of the same ones, just as they have different interpretations of the same ‘God’.

    Hinduism and Buddhism, although seen as religions, are less prescriptive than the monotheist reigons, do not proscribe those who believe in other ways and are not plagued with different interpretations of human texts that claim to be the ‘word of God’.

    In any case, the notion of the ‘word of God’ is a misunderstanding. The ‘word’ is not so much what is written as it is a symbol or representation for ‘being’ or the indefinable spirit or life-force that drives us and is all around us.

    The religions are all hypocritical to a greater or lesser degree. The monotheist ones are particularly so. They have no legitimate claim as moral arbiters, nor should their office holders be given respect simply because they wear a dog collar or have a religious tite.

    Relgions have caused more harm to humanity than any other single manifestation of human belief or action. They are an anachronism and even the simple-minded should be able to comprehend their fakenes

    One day, with good fortune, the World and humanity will be rid of the manipulatons of religions. Let’s hope that day comes soon and in the meantime let’s hope that people continue to withdraw from the farce, the tyranny, the hypocrisy, the malevolence and the stupidity that arises from so-called ‘faith’ in mythical beings, denial of science and dismissal of what we know of religious history and, indeed, the history of ‘God’.

    A good start to endng the tyranny of religion would be to cease the travesty of opening parliament with prayers; of swearing oaths on bibles, and respectability and reverence being automatically awarded to officers of religion. None of these practices has any merit or meanings.

  5. Phil Pryor

    Nobody has ever got some god, whether from Rome, Mecca, Delhi, La La Land, Wall st. into a forum of truth like a supreme court or an international forum. The superstitious live in a world that never existed, and make and bend rules to suit. Fantasy, fraud, filth, lies, exaggeration, propaganda, dogma, egofixation, righteousness, xenophobia, racism, triumphalism, sneering, vanity, all this and more inflate the synthetic world of religious imperiousness, and it STINKS in a modern world that needs and requires logic, rationality, honesty, science, awareness, truth, decency. We will go down, back and under as societies if religious falsity reamins. Australia has had pests poxes, plagues, pestilences, putridities enough.

  6. Harry Lime

    Seems to me that these cults attract the weak of mind looking for certainty and direction in an increasingly complex world.Somewhere that eliminates doubt and that can also justify your behaviour,right or wrong.Some one like that egregious liar,Scotty,sacked from Marketing.Who knew?

  7. Andrew Smith

    Charismatic cults expecting faith in authority, devotion and personal contributions financially and/or in kind appear to always need strong focus on growth and/or survival.

    Reminds me of Scientology and related eco system including Erhard Seminars Training/Forum etc. who used old evangelical techniques of group dynamics, manipulation, fund raising and with a need to network into power.

  8. Ken

    With ScottySackedFromMarketing the PM this whole religious rubbish is only going to get worse.
    SSFM will probably blame COVID19 on the devil or even on the non-religious !

  9. Birabongs

    I hope John that you spend some of your words on the concept of the so called “prosperity bible”, a concept which seems alien to the whole point of Jesus’ teachings.

  10. David Stakes

    Brain Washing under the disguise of religion, with a healthy dose of robbery of peoples money while under the influence of Charisma peddling.

  11. DrakeN

    nonsibicunctis put it well.

    My assertion that: “Religions are the longest running and most successful confidence tricks ever imposed on humankind” remains my “Article of Faith”.

    A “faith” with a fair bit of historical evidence to support it.

  12. Stephengb

    nonsibicunctis – well said.
    This is my favourite take from your comment is this
    “respectability and reverence being automatically awarded to officers of religion. None of these practices has any merit or meanings.”

    Good article I particularly liked this bit.
    “Pastors are more often than not are just ordinary people who complete a Biblical course and qualify to preach God’s word.

    Having achieved that status they believe they have a spiritual gifting that has been bequeathed on them by God, but few have any extraordinary qualities.

    They are often just ordinary men and women unqualified to deal with the many social issues of the congregation and the times.”

  13. wam

    I must apologise, lord, I had you, with me, as an avoided’ mick,.t not sure that your causerie is truth, lord, as your memory may be variable? But you are honest, so I am looking forward to the truth in the section under the heading: ‘what I believe now.’.

    Just as rupert has no problem fooling the left side of the top hat curve the churches have a problem with motivation to get them pew.
    In 1959, I remember having a laugh, in the refectory, at the girls wetting themselves over billy but was shocked to see so many boys go gooey over a load of codswallop.
    So the potential is there for the snake oil charmers to con cash out of the desperate fools needing assurance that we are not as other animals but are destined for an everlasting life with all the pleasures in heaven. To put it more succintly for the boys we can bonk for ever.
    Beauty, Draken who wrote the history?

  14. Lawrence Winder

    “… the word of god..”? What, a C16th politicized translation of Aramaic texts which were then bowdlerized into Greek and then Latin to suit the tenor of those times and now re-interpreted by some snake-oil yank for his own financial benefit? The Word of God! Codswallop!
    The corruption, cupidity and sheer selfishness of those adherents to this fakery now in federal parliament make me understand more keenly just why the Soviets treated religion as a mental illness to be incarcerated for!

  15. Christopher Beck

    I have also had a history within Pentecostal and other Fundamentalist churches and parachurch organisations. Fundamentalist Christians make up a big percentage within right wing “Patriot groups” and have political connections that are very disturbing. Alliances with white supremacist, gun lobby groups and ultra nationalists have been formed all in the hope of creating a theocracy. Australian groups draw upon a lot of support from American Christian Nationalists as well. One group I was involved in was the “Word of Faith” movement which included leaders like Copeland, Hinn, Howard-Brown and others. The main ideas were – Pastoral covering = you only get God’s blessing through the covering or anointing of the Pastor. This requires absolute obedience. Prosperity teaching = give to the Church and God will bless you. Being rich is a sign of God’s blessing. Demonic deliverance = all sickness and problems are caused by demons and salvation requires constant spiritual warfare and deliverance (exorcism). One such group in Rockhampton Queensland took anti-epileptic medication off my wife, saying she had a demon of epilepsy and needed faith to be healed. She nearly died and as a result, for many years had uncontrolled fits. While still working within the Christian communities, I now consider myself to be a Progressive. Fundamentalism needs to go. The “Way of Yeshua” still has a future, but we need a new spiritual direction.

  16. Mark Grieveson

    With respect, why can not the new “spiritual direction” be secular humanism where we choose to practise looking after each other in a compassionate way without any supernatural or theistic connection or affiliation ?

  17. Josephus

    The notion that virtue is not the prerogative of superstition is not new, CF the ancient Greeks and much later the learned dictionary of exiled Huguenot Pierre Bayle, 1680s to early 1700s.
    Later still the works of Bertrand Russell, etc.

    These fanatics are quite mad. They flourish in Hindu India , in Saudi, in the USA..

    God died in the extermination camps. Or should have. I would rather worship an echidna.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page
%d bloggers like this: