THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is the deeply offensive, increasingly-ugly conservative crusade against Muslims, which was initially limited to opposing the construction Islamic community centers and mosques, but it’s metastasizing quickly.

On September 11, 2010, the extremist evangelical Dove World Church — whose pastor, Terry Jones, has written a book called “Islam Is Of The Devil” — plans to host “International Burn A Quran Day,” when it will burn Muslims’ sacred text and encourage others across the world to do so as well. Churchmember Wayne Sapp has even posted an instructional video that explains how and why to burn the Islamic text.

CNN host Rick Sanchez invited Jones on his show [Thursday] to ask him about the inflammatory action…. Jones later went on to explain, “What we are also doing by the burning of the Quran, we’re saying stop, stop to Islam, stop to Islamic law, stop to brutality. We have nothing against Muslims, they are welcome in our country.” When Sanchez asked him how he would feel if Muslims burned the Bible, Jones admitted he wouldn’t like it but emphasized that it was his “right” to burn the Islamic text because “we live in America.”

So, the anti-Muslim, Quran-burning preacher wants us to believe he has “nothing against Muslims.” Why would anyone doubt that?

Another pastor from Dove World explained that his church believes in burning Islamic texts “because we’re Christian,” adding, “Being Christian does not mean you go to church. Being Christian does not mean you believe in God. Being Christian means you are Christ-like, or at least attempting to go in that direction. And Jesus, the Christ, he was sent — he appeared — to destroy the works of the Devil. So that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Maybe there’s some director’s cut version of the New Testament I’m not aware of, featuring a hateful, book-burning Jesus.

For the record, the National Association of Evangelicals, the nation’s largest body of evangelical Christians, has denounced Dove World’s efforts.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* Evangelical Christian minister Tim LaHaye, best known for helping write the best-selling “Left Behind” series, told Fox News this week that the Obama administration’s agenda is bringing us “closer to the apocalypse.” Asked if we’re “now living in the end times,” LaHaye said, “Very definitely.” (thanks to reader D.J.)

* California Tea Party activist Diane Serafin organized a protest at a Riverside County-area mosque this week, and urged Christians to bring dogs to the demonstration because “they hate dogs.” The point of the protest was to denounce the construction of a new mosque, which Serafin perceives as part of an effort to “take over our country.” She told Evan McMorris-Santoro, “I want you to stress this — I’m not prejudiced. I worked retail for nine years and I didn’t even know my manager was gay until someone told me. And when I found out, I didn’t care.” I guess that settles it, then.

* Newsweek reported the other day that, over the last four decades, church attendance goes up when the GDP goes down.

* And Ted Haggard this week said he “over-repented” for having an affair with a male prostitute. Whatever you say, Ted.

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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.