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Spamming In God's Name 18 July 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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Yesterday I received yet another spam which said in part:

"We’re starting a new kind of church and would like you to be a charter member. CyberChurchOnline will open its virtual doors in 30 days. A church with no doors..no walls and no limits!!"

Yes, that's right -- spam from God's believers!

Once you sign up -- just look at the benefits:

"You’ll have access to 24/7 instant chat time with live counselors. They’ll pray with you, talk with you, and help you through needs and problems in your life. We’ll make it our mission to pray for you, your family and your needs each and every day!"

Now we're talking!

However, something doesn't quite smell right about this heavenly solicitation.

First-up, the email claims that you'll have full access to this new cyber-church's website -- but they don't seem to have one!

Secondly, for an organisation which professes to have their own website, they don't seem to have a domain name and they're using a throw-away free email address: Newchurch2000@excite.com.

The domain names Newchurch2000 .com/org/net are all still available for registration although the name CyberChurchOnline has recently been registered and is "under construction."

And the coup de gras? -- how about this little trinket at the bottom of the email:

"To be removed from our list click on the link below and type remove in the subject line: Newchurchremove@excite.com"

Sorry -- I'm sure that God doesn't condone spamming and signing people up to mailing lists without their expressed permission. This smells far too much like an attempt to dupe gullible worshipers into verifying their email addresses so that some snot can build a higher-value mailing list.

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    I Use The Net, Therefore I Am Gullible
    Following on from that spam, I have to wonder why so many people consider the Net to be loaded with gullible worshipers?

    For example, have you ever seen the magical Benny Hinn on TV?

    Now I should make it quite clear that I acknowledge and respect the right of people to believe in whatever religion or denomination they like -- but Benny has a real credibility problem in my book.

    King of the "careful combers" and sporting a sheet of "swept-over" hair that often makes him look a bit like the Sydney Opera House, Benny calls people up on the stage and, simply by touching, causes them collapse to the floor (where some twitch and wriggle a bit) before arising -- cured of whatever ailed them.

    Dont' believe me? Just read the account on this page of the "young boy, just 7 years old, [who] attended in a wheelchair. He had been diagnosed with a rare condition that causes complete destruction of the hip joints. Following prayer, he stood up and walked around without pain!"

    Naturally these exhibitions of healing power are a part of his "Miracle Crusades" which he takes on the road (along with his donation plate).

    Central to each of his TV shows is the pitch to sell one of his books or the solicitation for donations. Of course his website sports its own e-commerce center (albeit Benny obviously doesn't care about Netscape users -- perhaps Mozilla looks too much like a serpent?)

    Of course if you can't make one of his travelling road-shows, Benny is kind enough to offer you all manner of remote healing through the Net!

    Yes, visit his website and you can go to the prayer center where your request will be "automatically be introduced into our Mighty Warrior Intercessors Army Prayers Center where it will be visible to the tens of thousands of Mighty Prayer Warriors worldwide". You even get an impressive list of ailments or problems you might want cured or solved from a very comprehensive pull-down list.

    Of course as soon as you've submitted your prayer request -- you get a screen that hints gently that you might want to make a donation (why aren't I surprised?).

    Once again, let me say that I'm not trying to ridicule religion of any kind, it's just that I find Benny's TV programs and his website to smack more than a little of hocus-pocus and commercialism than pure religious ideology.

    I'm not so sure that God would be impressed with this kind of thing would he?

    Hmmm... maybe I'm just too cynical to be using the Net.

    If anyone who has been cured or saved by Benny is reading this, please let us know! so that I can publish a suitable follow-up.

    More Hocus-Pocus?
    And tomorrow Aardvark will ask the perplexing question:

    "If this guy is really a psychic, why does he need to ask my credit card number?"


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