Jim Bakker is back on TV and--that in itself is amazing. Does no one remember this guy? I mean--how stupid ARE we? Consider: As was widely reported, Bakker-- pioneering Prosperity Christianity televangelist and husband of legendary eccentric Tammy Faye Bakker--secretly paid Jessica Hahn hush money after he raped her, stole money supposed to go to foreign missions for his doomed Heritage USA theme park, then defrauded MILLIONS of dollars from his viewers: "Bakker and his PTL associates sold $1,000 'lifetime memberships', entitling buyers to an annual three-night stay at a luxury hotel at Heritage USA"--only it never came to fruition and Bakker kept $3.4 million...Jim Bakker ended up spending some time in prison, and writing a book called I Was Wrong, in which he confessed that he'd never read much of the Bible till going to prison, and he was a dishonest hypocrite and so on--and then he started a new televangelist ministry! This time he's touting End Times hysteria, the End is Nigh because of this and that sign, and along with that claptrap he's selling survivalist end times supplies. Hey if you're one of his followers, aren't you supposedly going to Heaven? So why do you need end-times supplies? Just one of the hugely obvious questions his evangelistic fans aren't asking. The guy wrote a book admitting hypocrisy and then used it as a springboard back into the hypocrisy of using fear to sell bargain basement junk to his gullible TV audience. Breathtaking gall!

Meanwhile, America's many televangelists buy hyper-luxurious private jets, vast mansions, and excruciatingly expensive cars with the donated money they claim is going to God and charity. You already knew this? Right. Pretty much everyone knows it. The question is--why doesn't that knowledge matter? How can people be so persistently stupid as to keep giving these people their money?

Prosperity Gospel evangelism hasn't gone away--it's gotten bigger. This greed-based pseudo-Christianity tells financially challenged TV viewers that they will be rewarded by God with prosperity if only they first send money to the televangelist, or buy Preacher Moneylust's books & DVDs. Are they worshipping Jesus--or Mammon? Credulous donators dig deep for money they cannot afford to spend. Among the Prosperity Gospel hucksters is Trump White House adviser Paula White--as we reported earlier--which shows you just how close to the seats of power these con artists are.

The stupidity of falling for all this is difficult to understand. Many of these suckers are probably reasonably bright otherwise. But as we've pointed out before, evangelical religion requires its enthusiasts to dumb themselves down. Televangelists make viewers feel better, for a time, and in exchange for that their audience willingly filters out any thought of the crazed improbability of what's being spouted at them. Desperation, too, plays a part. People are desperate to feel better; the poor are desperate to have more money. It's easy to suppress one's native intelligence when one is desperate. And finally there's a desire for a shortcut. A shortcut to Heaven, a shortcut to blessings, a shortcut to the Golden Calf of Prosperity...

It's all part of the deeply, profoundly cynical culture of televangelists. Take this classic scam from a few years back: "Peter Popoff, the controversial televangelist who amassed millions from a "prophetic anointing" that was later revealed to have come, at least in part, from information fed to him over a radio by his wife, Elizabeth, is now hawking baggies of "miracle spring water" that promises to rid its drinkers from debt. "

You know, if it were some obscure street-corner hustler bellowing about his prayer water, or his formula for Prosperity Christianity, it would be hardly worth mentioning. But megachurch televangelists ripoff MILLIONS of dollars from MILLIONS of people! Why do we stand for this utter, outright, obvious, mega-fraud? Why do we as a people never seem to learn?