(Photo: Dr. Pepper)
Christians have fallen for some of the strangest rumors. Here are five of the most memorable, in no particular order.
1. Pepsi Can Omits "Under God" From Pledge of Allegiance
You may have heard this one in one of those emails with the letters "fw:fw:fw:fw:fw:fw:..." in the subject line: "Pepsi has a new patriotic can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Building and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. But Pepsi forgot two little words on the pledge, 'Under God.'"
Other versions replace "Pepsi" with "Coca-Cola." It was neither, it turns out. Dr. Pepper, which is not a Pepsi nor Coca-Cola company product, had the patriotic cans. The cans did leave out "under God," but so were 26 other words. Of the 31 words in the Pledge, three were selected for the can – "one nation" and "indivisible."
2. Albert Einstein Humiliates Atheist Professor
There have been many versions of the "atheist professor gets bested by smart student" rumor that gets shared via email and Facebook.
In this version the professor claims that since evil exists, God cannot exist because, if God created everything, He must have created evil. This would make God both good and evil, which is impossible.
The student debunks his teacher using analogies with light and heat — dark is the absence of light, cold is the absence of heat, hence evil is the absence of God.
The punch line comes at the end: "The young man's name — Albert Einstein."
Many Christians were so impressed by the young genius that they posted it to their Facebook page, only later to be embarrassed by someone who pointed to the Snopes article showing that Einstein never said that.
3. Tide Detergent is Satanic
A popular rumor spread among Christians in the 1980's was that Proctor & Gamble, the company that makes Tide laundry detergent and a bunch of other products, was associated with the Church of Satan. The rumor was revived in the 1990's with a rumor that the company's President appeared on the Phil Donahue show and admitted that he belonged to the Church of Satan.
In 1995, four distributors for Amway, a company that competes with P&G, were sued by P&G for spreading the rumor. In 2007, a jury awarded P&G $19.25 million.
4. New World Order, Illuminati, Trilateral Commission, Blah, Blah, Blah ...
The main institutions of the world — governments, business, media — are all being controlled by a few elites who are members of secret societies. This notion makes for popular fiction, such as with the movies "National Treasure" and "The Da Vinci Code."
Some maintain, though, that these events are real. A Christian version of these ideas can be found in Pat Robertson's 1991 book, The New World Order. The conspiracy involves groups called the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations. For Robertson, this grand conspiracy is also linked to Satan and the end of the world.
Oh, and there is also something in there about freemasons and Jewish bankers.
4. Gay Men Wear Special Rings to Pass HIV
This false rumor was recently revived by, again, Pat Robertson.
"You know what they do in San Francisco," he said in an August broadcast of the 700 Club," some in the gay community there, they want to get people. So if they got the stuff (AIDS) they'll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring's got a little thing where you cut your finger. Really. It's that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder."
His comments were deleted out of later broadcasts of the show. Christian Broadcasting Network tried to get a video of his remarks posted by Right Wing Watch taken down. Right Wing Watch filed a counterclaim with YouTube, arguing that the video is protected by Fair Use and the video was restored.
5. Rape Pregnancies Are Rare
This rumor likely cost the Republican Party at least one Senate seat.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Rep. Todd Akin said in a 2012 interview that doomed his campaign to become the next U.S. senator from Missouri.
The myth that the female body has natural defenses the prevents them from getting pregnant when they are raped has been circulating for a while in pro-life and Christian circles.
The likely source of the rumor was a 1999 article by pro-life advocate Dr. John C. Willke called, "Rape Pregnancies Are Rare." Willke calculated that only about 225 to 370 women per year should get pregnant after being raped. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites a study showing that about 32,000 pregnancies result from rape each year.