Nate Phelps Talks About his Infamous Family

I wasn’t at the American Atheists’ Convention so I really hope AA releases video of this.

Here is an excellent writeup about Nate Phelps‘ talk at the AA Convention. Phelps is the son of Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps — but Nate managed to escape from the family’s craziness.

hambydammit was there:

Nate’s speech, which lasted for around forty minutes, was sometimes painful to listen to. He spoke of horrible, despicable acts of abuse, both physical and mental, and of the tyrannical, sociopathic dictator of a father who literally made the lives of his wife and thirteen children a living hell. He read his speech, rather nervously, and it was obvious that he is still living with the mental scars of his upbringing. At one point, he showed us the kind of handle Fred used to beat his children — a four or five foot long piece of wood not unlike an axe-handle. He explained how his father learned the most effective ways of causing excruciating pain; for instance, he would hit his children in one particular spot enough that a bruise would raise up and blood would accumulate over the course of ten or fifteen minutes, and then he would hit them again in the same spot, causing the skin to break, and inflicting terrible pain. When he was particularly irate, he would hit them behind the knee, or on the small of the back, where the pain would be the most searing and brutal.

The rest of his writeup is just as emotionally gripping — especially considering hambydammit had his own scarring religious upbringing and had to relive it throughout the speech.

  • Larry Huffman

    If I believed in the christian god, I would surely stand up and say “god hates child abusers”. Which he most certainly is one…what is described is criminal. And horrible. What a piece of shit.

    While this is not at all surpriseing…Phelps has exhibited a level of hate that quite truly sets him apart these days…it is very sad and very revealing.

    I wonder how many christians who follow this deluded, hateful psychopath actually understands this side of his character. Even christian parents who believe “spare the rod, spoil the child” do not beat their kids just to hurt them or to find the best ways to cause pain. How can anyone who believes in the alleged ‘god of love’ feel one iota of desire to follow this man’s teachings or actions. And his children all seem to be following in his footsteps, or shellshocked refuges from a cult. I am betting that some of those kids are dealing out similar abuse on Fred’s grandchildren. Chips of the old blockhead.

    Causing a child pain does not teach them, it hurts them. I raised 4 kids and I saw one of my primary jobs as their father as preventing them from being harmed…not causing them harm. I wanted my kids to trust me and look to me…not to fear me.

  • SarahH

    I’ve read Nate’s story before, and it’s heartbreaking. It’s a touchy subject, but I take issue with the content of the indoctrination as well as the methods Phelps used. The methods are something I think almost all parents would condemn, but many people still bring their children up to view homosexuality as perverted and sinful, to fear hell and believe non-Christians are going there, and to see themselves as lowly sinners who are only redeemed by a God.

    I think that most children, when brought up in an environment that immerses them in these doctrines completely enough, don’t stand a chance of truly making their own decisions about beliefs when they reach adulthood. Kids aren’t capable of certain mental processes until they mature to certain ages, 8 for some types of thinking, 12 for more complicated logic and reasoning. If all their premises are drilled into them by the time they reach these ages, all the logic in the world won’t reach them, because they’re too mired in doctrinal teachings to consider alternative premises.

    I think that the author of the article is at least partially right when he calls this “abuse” – particularly when he says that teaching children misinformation about sex constitutes sexual abuse – and it’s difficult to consider how, legally or pragmatically, this will ever be stopped.

  • Polly

    Happily, I don’t think his influence reaches beyond his extended family.

    Nate Phelps’s ordeal was terrible. But, it is a novelty and not representative of anything more than the Phelps cult. I wouldn’t try to draw a connection between the mainstream, “soft” bigotry of fundies with what Phelps proclaims or does. He’s a circus freak.

  • Larry Huffman

    I disagree completely Polly. While it is not an extremely large number who follow this man…his influence does stretch further than his own family. Have you not seen how many people show up with “god hates _____” signs? He has enough influence to cause a dozen or so families, almost anywhere he calls for a protest, to come out and show their colors. If he can inspire them to hate as he does, I am quite sure he can inspire them to parent as he does as well.

  • Polly

    Since I haven’t looked into his activities, I’ll defer to those who know more about him regarding his popularity outside his bloodline.

    The man just isn’t significant enough, IMO, to warrant any further attention except from those directly affected by him and his protests. Even if he gets 20 families to come support him everywhere he goes all it indicates is that there are idiots to be found in any village.

  • Larry Huffman

    Polly…agreed. My comments are not about large numbers and his ability to influence new followers or the masses. It is about families, usually with large numbers of children, following him. I do not care that the parents follow him…but those large families have 3,4,7,10 kids (I am sure many are quiverfull in practice)…for the lawd…and if they choose to emulate this guy, those kids are in for a harsh childhood.

    So, when speaking of numbers of followers…no, a few thousand nationwide is not too big of a deal. But if those people all have 4 kids per family on average, which is conceivable, we could be speaking about several thousand children being raised by people who very blindly follow this cad. And…if he can get them to stand with hate signs against their own neighbors in the name of god…I am quite sure he can get them to use the rod on their children in the name of god as well.

    I agree that the indoctrination is bad…but let’s be real…almost all christians indoctrinate their kids. I am speaking about kids growing up in fear of physical harm by their own parents. Of course he is not the only abusive parent out there…but that is the point. The man that these people blindly follow is a child abuser…to a high degree. And he tries to stand on a moral pinnacle based on the bible and god.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    so what’s the statute of limitations for child abuse?

  • sdrDusty

    I was fortunate enough to be there, and the impact Nate’s story had on us can not be overstated.

    Here in Atlanta we had a church that was carrying out child beatings as part of its religious service.
    Such things are not restricted to the Phelps family. In far too many instances US society is too willing to ignore such practices on religious freedom grounds.

  • «bønez_brigade»

    I was also at Nate’s talk Saturday, and I thought it was quite a moving speech. The mental & physical abuse he and his siblings (and mother) received — usually just so they would know who was in charge — was quite disturbing. An example of this was the aforementioned mattock handle he brought. Nate told of how Fred once gathered all of the kids together in order to introduce them to one of those handles; and this was accomplished by testing it on the face of the oldest brother — not for any previous wrongdoing, but to teach them obedience (to God and to Fred).

    Richard Dawkins was first in line for the Q&A, and he sounded absolutely appalled by the disturbing stories he’d just heard. After thanking Nate for having the courage to speak out, Dawkins urged for him to push for legal action against Fred for committing such abusive actions. Nate mentioned that that had been tried once before without much luck, to which Dawkins forcefully responded, “do it again!” Sadly, Nate didn’t sound too optimistic about it succeeding. His appearance at the convention was well-received by the audience, though.

    Here’s what David Silverman wrote about Nate’s reception over at the No God Blog:

    Without a doubt, his speech was the best received of the convention. He was interrupted 4 times by applause, and received not one, but two standing ovations (once after the speech, another after Q&A).

  • Trina Hoaks

    Although I was at the convention, I missed Nate. I was doing an interview that ran long. But, I spoke to at least two people who said they had to get up and leave because they just couldn’t deal. It was just too difficult.

    Richard Dawkins said it was one of the best presentations of the convention, heart-wrenching as it was.

    In about a month, AA will be releasing DVDs of the entire convention. They will be selling them via their Web site.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I guess we will all have egg on our faces if we die and arrive at the pearly gates and discover that Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps is the gate-keeper to heaven.

    As a “fag enabler” I’d certainly be dammed to eternal separation from those of the Phelps clan in good standing with Fred.

    I’ll take my heaven right here right now.

  • cassiek

    As a “fag enabler” I’d certainly be damned

    Lol Jeff! As my friends have dubbed me the “ultimate fag hag” I’ll be right there with you. As my friend Jim says “all the most interesting people will be there.”

  • Brian

    While I appreciate a story; we all have one and we all have opinions. I’ll share mine. There are many who in the name of God do and have done bad things. This is nothing new; it’s been going on for millennium. Scripture is clear, there will be many false profits and teaches. Fred Phelps is one example. On the other extreme we have Mother Theresa; she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. At the end of the day, it’s all about choices. What do we stand for; how do we model to others what we stand for; and what drives our compass. Lastly, through persistence, self-knowledge, prayer, commitment, optimism, a resolute trust in God and the building of your own personal moral strength, you can enjoy the blessings of a deeper faith and face the difficulties of life with courage and confidence.


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