The Good Phelps Visits Ottawa

Nate Phelps, the son of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, recently did an interview about his awful upbringing — it just shows that even people raised in the most extremist of environments can grow out of it.

Know hope?

Xtra: Was there a fear that you would become your father?

NP: I lived with that fear constantly. It informed my life at every level — if my father did it this way then I was loath to do it that way. I carried with me the idea that corporal punishment was okay, it was necessary, even though I was starting to let go of the idea that the Bible was the source of divine wisdom. I still had this in me that I was not doing the best for my kids if I didn’t spank them. Then one day I had an encounter with my youngest boy, who was about five at the time. I had tried to do it a different way, trying to let the kids know that I loved them, but he was still terrified. So I talked to him about it, I talked to my wife about it, and I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Some things I let go easily; some things I clung to for a long time.

Xtra: What got you into gay advocacy?

NP: It’s circumstances, really. We grew up being taught that the gays were the ultimate evil. I mean, you really saw them as a separate class of evil, and I carried that idea with me into adulthood. I never really questioned it, never challenged it, and then I got out into the real world and had to think through for myself what I really believed. The humanist ideology doesn’t really allow for this notion that we can treat one group of people different from another because we disagree with their lifestyle. The fact that that was the issue they focused on — it just seemed like the perfect fit for me to go out there and try to counter some of the damage. When I started talking, I was getting emails constantly from gay kids all over the country, all over the US and Canada, some of them terrified because of the messages they had heard… It was a natural thing for me to fight against that message they were putting out there.

His is a voice we all need to hear.

Phelps is speaking about his life at the Ottawa City Hall next Saturday night (Aug. 27th) — Tickets are $5, but Center For Inquiry members get in for free.

(Thanks to Lisa for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anonymous

    Hemant,

    If I were to compare the number of times a statistically irrelevant church of a hundred members in Kansas is mentioned in these pages and and the number of posts concerning the overwhelming amount of Christian charity done by others, might those numbers skew disproportionate? 

    • Renshia

      So whats your point?

      • Anonymous

        I’m trying to determine if Hemant is treating Christianity fairly and not trying to cast the worst possible, isolated example as being representative of the whole. Perhaps Mr. Phelps could learn something from the phrase “love thy neighbor”.
         
        I’d also like to know the number of times Terry Jones is brought up as compared to how often  mainstream Christianity is referenced.

        • Rich Wilson

          I can’t think of a single example of Hemant implying that Phelps or Jones represented all of Christianity.  I’m sure I’m wearing my goggles, so I’d welcome correction.

          When I cast my mind to the times I think about Christianity, it’s when it (IMO) restricts my rights and freedoms.  Atheism as a concept only exists because of the pressure placed on the secular world by the non-secular world.  If it weren’t for all the collectors in the world who tried to get the non-collectors to collect (or otherwise pushed them) there’d be no need for the non-collectors to make their voices heard.  Ergo, the noise you’re going to hear from the non-collectors will be about the pushy collectors, not the non-pushy collectors.  Sure, there are lots of non-pushy collectors, but they’re not the problem.  It’s not the responsibility of the non-collectors to trumpet the non-pushy collectors.  You’re welcome to do that if you wish of course.

          • Anonymous

            I can’t think of a single example of Hemant implying that Phelps or Jones represented all of Christianity.  I’m sure I’m wearing my goggles, so I’d welcome correction

            Rich, if the only times I ever referenced atheism, I only mentioned Hoxha and Choibalsan, would that be even remotely considered fair?

            • Rich Wilson

              I think that’s a great idea.  Go start a blog about bad atheists.  I think there’s an untapped niche there.  Make sure you spend some time on each one’s motivation.

        • Rabid

          Just out of interest, are you attempting to imply that the belief that  being gay is a sin in the eyes of God (punishable by assignment to hell in the afterlife assuming you don’t repent) ISN’T a view held by a vast spectrum of “mainstream” Christians?
          Because it is. The only difference between those Christians and (Fred) Phelps is delivery. The underlying justification is fucking identical.
          Attempting to separate the two groups is silly at best and disingenuous at worst.

          Frankly I’ve got more respect for Phelps saying “God hates fags” than I do a simpering Christian saying “God says homosexuality is a sin [implying punishment with hell] but both He and I love you!”

          Even though both proclamations make me want vomit up my liver, at least one of them is honest. After all, God most certainly hates fags… and just about everyone else. Go read the damned book.

        • Renshia

          I don’t understand what you mean by fairly. Being an atheist site, with no beliefs in gods and the religions attached to gods, anything less than maniacal laughter and the throwing of stones should be considered a fair shake.

          As far as the referencing of christianity, it is  one of the most destructive forces created by man. The cost has been to hold back society in bronze age thinking, prejudices and rituals. It does nothing to advance society and only leaves death and destruction in its wake.
          So screw the fair shake.Your christianity should be above being able to be ridiculed. You have your god and your answers what do you need a fair shake for?

          • Anonymous

            As far as the referencing of christianity, it is  one of the most destructive forces created by man

            Thank you for posting what is quite possibly the most demonstrably stupid comment to ever be made.

            By what metric(s) is Christianity ” one of the most destructive forces created by man”?  In order to make such a blanket statement, I assume that you at least gave it some thought.

            I will just throw out the following… In terms of,

            The founding of universities,

            The founding of hospitals,

            The discontinuation of the exposure of unwanted infants,

            The establishment of food pantries, soup kitchens and medical clinics in the most disgusting hell holes on planet earth,

            Christianity has been by far the force of the greatest good this planet has ever seen.

            You wouldnt mind pointing out how I am wrong in these assertions, would you?  

            • Renshia

              “Thank you for posting what is quite possibly the most demonstrably stupid comment to ever be made.”

              Your welcome, and thank you for posting one of the most ignorant replies.

              I would point out all the persecutions and wars that have been perpetrated by those of your great religion, or of those who died of sickness and disease following some religious nuts instructions, I might even bring up the mental subjugation and abuse to children and women, but I know it will fall on deaf ears. I know you see your world through rose colored glasses and I would not want to fog the lenses with facts.

              But lets cut to the chase here, no religion has ever encouraged those things you have mentioned. The very efforts of what you speak about did not come about because of god or religion, but in spite of it. It was people that rose against the traditions and defied the church to pursue knowledge and disseminate it. It was good people doing what is right. Not some god raising a hospital from dust nor was it religion calling the people to learn.

              And no, I wouldn’t mind pointing it out at all. Maybe you have been suckered into thinking that all good acts come from god, maybe your one of those who think us wicked creations could not in their sinful plight do any good. People will always rise above that which religion tries to crush.

              Before you parade your ignorance further maybe you should get your head out of your daily platitudes and read some history.

              And on a further note, the above writing is how to construct a conversation. I know you think your talking to your bible chums, that might have a hard time following correct paragraph structure. however you will find people on this site on a slightly higher intelligence level and able to follow a whole paragraph without needing the spaces between the sentences to allow time for them to sink in. Would it help if I left more spaces for you?.

    • Rich Wilson

      Curious to know what you think the remedy should be.  Should we ignore Nate because his father is embarrassing?  Or try to cut Nate’s father out of his story?

      I’m all for not feeding the troll that is WBC, but I’m also not interested in extending that to the good that has thrived in spite of that evil.  Sometimes bathwater contains perfectly edible babies.

  • Anonymous

    I do not believe it’s at all irrelevant to talk about the Phelps family because though they are extreme, the pattern of religious belief and behavior is comparable to other sects.  The way the children are conditioned, indoctrinated (brainwashed) and the way the few that have escaped have had to deprogram themselves is very relateable to many people who were brought up religious and then left.   And because it is an extreme sect it’s almost universally understood as wrong.  The only difference between them and other conservative christian groups is degree, and sometimes only tone.  

    Now go to Focus on the Family and ask why they don’t give equal time to families raised by two daddies.

  • Charles Black

    It’s nice to know that the son knows better than the ignorant & bigoted father.
    I guess there is hope afterall to end bigotry.


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