Faithfully Ignorant

The separation of church and state is a funny thing that seems to be misunderstood by a number of people. Let’s pick one almost at random: Pastor Jeff Carroll of the Cedar Grove Methodist Church in Alabama. He seems to think that the government should not be allowed to impose itself on his organization in any manner, including little details like, oh, building permits. That’s why he didn’t bother to go through the usual channels when “helping” his congregation build their new church. After all, who needs the blessing of some city inspector when you have the holiest blessing around? Let’s check in with the pastor and see how it all went:

Thank God nobody was hurt,” Pastor Jeff Carroll said.

Whoops! Darn that rascally God! He gave his holy blessing and then decided to destroy all the congregation’s hard work the moment it was completely finished. Ho ho, you prankster! Well, let’s all kneel down and thank Him for pulling His holy joke without killing anyone.

Carroll said he focuses on the positives and plans for rebuilding. But questions linger as to who or what is to blame for the cave-in.

Is it not obvious? If the thing were still standing, God would’ve taken all the credit. Why not give Him the same amount of credit now? Well, in the interest of fairness, let’s look around and see if anyone else might be to blame.

The Cedar Grove church designs were assembled by a church member and her daughter after looking at pictures on the Internet, Carroll said.

This makes perfect sense. If I were going to build a large structure that would then be filled with 500 people, the first place I’d go is Google. Let’s do a Google image search for “build church,” shall we?

Okay, this is a good start.

Getting a little tricky, here.

The hell?

Okay, so we can throw a little blame at God, and maybe a little at the Internet architects. But the biggest ass in this story is probably — you guessed it — the pastor himself.

Carroll, himself a homebuilder, said he was not aware of any requirements and remains unconvinced a government body should have a say in how a church is built.

Good thing ignorance is a legitimate excuse for endangering the lives of 500 people. Wait a second, it’s not! What a dick.

“If the state and the church are separate, I don’t understand why they think they’ve got jurisdiction,” he said.

Here’s where we get into that church/state separation issue. You see, Pastor, unless your religion is based on building shoddy structures and standing under them waiting for death, the government is not infringing upon your precious religious freedoms by telling you to build something safe, you stupid, pathetic kneebiter.

It’s not worrying me and it’s not worrying my congregation,” he said. “We started out with faith and that’s what we’ve still got.”

Of course you’re not worried. I could point a gun at my cat’s head and she wouldn’t be worried in the least. She’d probably roll onto her back and start purring, having plenty of faith that her loving owner will use this shiny new object for new and exciting methods of belly scratching.

Roll over, Pastor! Let’s see that tummy!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

Related Articles


  1. Oh boy…that workmanship looks damn shoddy. I am happy that no one got hurt, but someone easily could have been. That pastor should have some sort of legal action taken against him, if he hasn't already.

  2. I suppose when the paper said "homebuilder" they meant he decorates, cleans up, and regularly watches the kids as opposed to, say, actually constructing houses since it'd be quite impossible to be in construction and not know about building codes. Although, maybe reverend deficient considers shopping at home depot enough qualification; better yet, I bet reading that bit in the bible regarding Noah is all that you need.

    Actually, that leads to me ask another, totally tangential, question: should the building have collapsed when it was full, would that have been interpreted as god telling the congregation that he was unhappy with their worship?

  3. Of course not, nsetzer. That would just be a random, senseless act. Catastrophes are only an act of God when they happen to people who disagree with you.

  4. Of course it was an act of god! The god Thor! They built this abomination right next to _his_ city!

    "Had things gone as planned, up to 500 people would have been crowding into the Cedar Grove Methodist Church near Thorsby"

    Oh, and does anyone know if insurance companies include in little print that churches must be designed by someone with an ounce of sense and built to code?

    "The new church was insured and Carroll said he expects the collapse will be covered."

  5. " Carroll said the truss company is sending in a forensic expert to study why the roof did not hold. He said he got assurances beforehand that a wooden truss spanning the 80 feet over the sanctuary would be sturdy enough to support the roof."

    A wooden truss? Or wooden trusses?

    And sure, a wooden truss could be sturdy enough to span an 80 foot gap, but much would depend on the type of wood, the size of the beams used, and the way they are interlinked. I can understand perfectly how something like that might appear to hold for several months before finally collapsing under its own weight without warning (well, unless you know what the warning signs are).

    Heck, there was a building in Asia somewhere that managed to keep standing for several years despite being unable to support even its own weight, let alone that of added installations like elevators, airconditioning, or the people walking around inside.

  6. "Of course you’re not worried. I could point a gun at my cat’s head and she wouldn’t be worried in the least. She’d probably roll onto her back and start purring, having plenty of faith that her loving owner will use this shiny new object for new and exciting methods of belly scratching."

    Rebecca that was the funniest thing I read all morning but my cat kept looking at me funny all day

  7. Good grief. Clearly there is no god becsue this moron wasn't flattened by the building. Ok, that may be a little harsh. It would have been nice if he'd at least gotten a concussion out of the deal… might have kick started a few brain cells.

    On the plus side – I'm reasonably certain that any insurance claim will be denied. Having worked in insurance for a number of years I can tell you that it would not be impossible (or even unlikely) that a policy would be issued for a building that was not properly inspected or permitted – it is assumed that these have been done. I mean, you'd be an idiot not to have a large building built to code right??? Luckily, the policy almost certainly does not cover gross negligence…like not having the building desgined by professionals, inspected, and permitted. In fact, since the building is basically an illegal structure, we might get lucky and they'll go after the Pastor for insurance fraud for even making the claim…ok, probably not but we can always hope!

    Serioulsy though – it is a VERY lucky thing that nobody was hurt in this. If that pastor is a homebuilder somebody need to burn his contractors license because it is clearly a forgery!

  8. "Seriously though – it is a VERY lucky thing that nobody was hurt in this."


    I'm personally of the opinion that we should just let natural selection start taking over stuff like this again. (Not that these folks likely believe in it anyway.) I mean, who is dumber: the pastor who doesn't believe that gov't should hold his building to code, or the congregation that went along with it? Maybe the world would be better without both….


    "I don't mean to sound cruel or callous or coldhearted, but I am so that's how it comes out." –Bill Hicks

  9. “We were trying to build a new one the way our forefathers did, with blood and sweat and tears and volunteers and donations and people helping,”

    and knowledge of building work, and engineering competence, and all those other things that go towards building a building that – oh, I don’t know – doesn’t fall down on a clear day?

    “For now, the emphasis is on finding out exactly what caused the roof to give way.”

    But I thought they’d already answered that: God made it fall down because there was nobody in it:

    “”Thank God nobody was hurt,” Pastor Jeff Carroll said. “He chose to let it come down on a Thursday evening when nobody was there.”

    Chose, or made? I see a jealous god at work here :-)

  10. Musitron –

    Well, you may be right about the Darwinian aspects here… but I'm still a human and I don't like the idea of some folks getting crushed for anothers ignorance and stupidity. While some of the congregation no doubt knew of the lack of inspection, engineering, and permitting I'd be willing to bet that most were blissfully unaware (especially the probable 100+ kids…) and simply trusted in their spiritual leader to make sure all was good and safe. Sheep and sheperd and all that. Ignorance is curable – it is after all what skeptics aim to cure – and most of those folks are simply ignorant. OK, so most of them are willfully ignorant (as opposed to simply)…still, I hold out hope for them to eventually use that spongy organ between their ears and they can't do that if they been squashed by the results of idiotic pastors who fancy themselves competent builders. Who knows, maybe one of those kids in the congregation will get the bug for engineering by trying to understand why the church collapsed so spontaneously. We can only hope!

  11. Stark,

    Honestly, I am thankful that you and those like you can be rationalists and still have compassion towards those who would probably rather see us burning in a lake of fire. I certainly can't do it any more. I live in the bible belt in the US and have taken more flack for my worldview than the "persecuted" xtians of today will ever take in ten lifetimes, and it's charred me into a bitter, cynical ashheap.

    I agree that children should not be punished by…. well, "providence" isn't the right word, but it's the first one that comes to mind. However, my charcoal heart also sees these kids as the same ones whose immersion in endemic stupidity from their conception day will ensure they turn out just like faithful Pastor Jeff here. If they were all to have died in a collapse during Sunday service, yes, that would have been a tragedy.

    But aren't the lives they're likely to lead, ignorant and "blissfully unaware" and bigoted to reason, the bigger tragedy? Really, isn't this a tragedy for all of us?

    I would expect a your response to shades of, "Well, we can attempt to educate them and foster critical thinking, and eventually, with enough effort, they'll throw the yoke of religion from their necks themselves; that's the best we can do."

    You'd be absolutely right, and I would admire, genuinely, your patience, empathy, and conviction that ignorance can be overturned……. I've just lived too long around the irrational masses to share your optimism anymore. I've been scorched into a curmudgeon.

    Keep fighting the good fight.


  12. Hey, we all have our curmudgeon moments. I have, on more than one occasion, muttered "idiot" and left people to wallow in their idiocy and superstition… but… given enough time I come back around to trying to be a good human for the sake of my community. I've found it much easier to keep fighting the fight now that I have my own kids – it's a great motvation to want them to live in a world without the mumbo jumbo, superstitiom, and idiocy I see day to day. Kids have this amazing abiltiy to focus your mind on how their life will be once you are gone and since I want it to be better than mine has been (as all parents do I suspect) I do what I can. I know it's nothing more than a ripple in the Atlantic…but hey, ya gotta start somewhere!

    I can symapthize about the bible belt exposure – I spent 4 years in NC and know where your coming from. It can be very frustrating.


  13. Yes, the skeptics most valuable trait is patience, and a willingness to try, try more, then try again.

    Personally, I interpret that as typing out a whole explanation all over again every time somebody posts something untrue or misinformed on a message board or blog. Perhaps the original poster won't change their mind, but at least someone reading my comment might, and that's one person that would otherwise have read and swallowed the BS unchallenged.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button