THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week, we got a closer look this week at the American religious activists who have helped lay the groundwork for the nauseating anti-gay crusade in Uganda.

Last March, three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived here in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks.

The theme of the event, according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

Imagine that. Just one month after the American religious activists told Ugandans that gays are evil child molesters intent on destroying families and society, some Ugandan politicians kicked off an effort to execute gay people (or, more recently, sentence them to life in prison).

The three Americans — missionary Scott Lively, Exodus International’s Don Schmierer, and activist Caleb Lee Brundidge — suddenly want no part of the Ugandan legislation they helped inspire. Lively even met with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss the insane legislation, but later said “he was very disappointed that the legislation was so harsh.”

The Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian who went undercover for six months to chronicle the relationship between the African anti-homosexual movement and American evangelicals, said, “What these people have done is set the fire they can’t quench.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* A new blasphemy law went into effect last week in Ireland, which seeks to punish those who say anything “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.” Atheists, recognizing that their beliefs, if articulated, may now bring prosecution and steep fines, are challenging the law: “In a bid to demonstrate that the law is outdated and largely unenforceable, a group named Atheist Ireland published on its Web site on Friday 25 potentially blasphemous quotations from figures such as Jesus Christ, Muhammad, George Carlin, Pope Benedict XVI and Mark Twain.”

* Following up on an item from last week, evangelical pastor Rick Warren recently issued a plea to donors, hoping to fill a $900,000 deficit in his megachurch’s budget. The appeal worked — Warren raised $2.4 million in about a week, all from donations under $100.

* And RNC Chairman Michael Steele, hoping to keep his job, told TV preacher Pat Robertson’s news network yesterday that he “really believes” that God has “placed” him atop the Republican National Committee. “[W]hy else would you do this unless there’s something inside of you that says right now you need to be here to do this?” he added.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.