This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a story we’ve been following out of Liberty University’s theological seminary, which was founded by the late radical televangelist Jerry Falwell.

The seminary had found an effective and charismatic president, Ergun Caner, who’d become something of a star in fundamentalist circles. Part of Caner’s success is a result of his personal backstory — he claims to have been born in Turkey to a devout Sunni Muslim family, which made him a “jihadist.” That Caner, an effective salesman, converted to evangelical Christianity gave him an interesting perspective. That he was able to present himself as both a Christian leader and an expert on Islam and terrorism made him a sought-after speaker on the religious right circuit.

But as it turns out, Ergun Caner has a Mark Kirk-like problem — Caner’s story was largely made up, and among other things, he was never “trained in Islamic jihad,” as he’s claimed. This week, the revelations cost him his job.

Liberty University said Friday that Ergun Caner would no longer be dean of its seminary, following an investigation into some of his claims about being raised as a Muslim.

Caner has signed a contract to be a member of the seminary’s faculty next year, the university said in a statement Friday afternoon.

Four members of Liberty’s Board of Trustees who conducted the investigation found that “Dr. Caner has made factual statements that are self-contradictory,” the university said.

Even in religious right circles, bearing false witness will occasionally come with consequences.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The U.S. Supreme Court declined this week to hear a case involving the Vatican’s claims of immunity in cases stemming from the church’s sexual abuse of children. The outcome allows a pending lawsuit to proceed, though Vatican attorneys intends to argue at the district court that the church cannot be held responsible for the actions of a Roman Catholic priest accused of assaulting children. Word from the high court was part of “seven days that shook the Vatican.” (thanks to D.J. for the heads-up)

* TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Regent University is facing severe economic hardship, prompting Robertson to bailout the school with money from the Christian Broadcasting Network. (thanks to tveblen for the tip)

* Those who enjoy debating the existence of God will be pleased to know… there’s an app for that.

* And on a related note, “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” — that is, until now.