Due to (Paranoid) Religious Concerns, Christian Family Sails Out of America… and Gets Stranded

Not long ago, Hannah Gastonguay and her husband Sean concluded, for no rational reason, that the government was interfering too much in their religious life.

They didn’t want to pay “taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with”… which doesn’t actually happen, unless you’re deluded enough to think that contraception amounts to infanticide.

They also didn’t believe in “homosexuality… in the state-controlled church,” a statement that makes no sense no matter how you slice it, since homosexuals exist whether you want them to or not, and no church in the country has been forced to welcome them or honor their relationships. Also: state-controlled church? Who knew.

So, a few months ago, the Gastonguays decided to make a break for it. They scooped up their kids, Rahab and Ardith, along with Sean’s father, and they set sail — literally — from San Diego to go to the island of Kiribati:

Hannah [said] that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us”

Oh, this should be good…

… just weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress

Psst… I think God’s sending you a sign!

It took 91 days before they hit land again.

The good news is that the kids appear to be safe. The family says they will now return to Arizona to “come up with a new plan.”


I hope it involves a moratorium on watching FOX News and getting a real education about the intersection of church and state in our country.

If anything, the government is too cozy with churches, giving them tax breaks without requiring accountability, bending over backwards to accommodate their beliefs when it comes to policy decisions, and having an official Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. But, you know, silly me pointing to facts, right?

Here’s the kicker: The place where the Gastonguays were trying to go to, Kiribati, is a country where the President wants residents to leave because climate change will soon make the island uninhabitable:

[President] Anote Tong was reelected comfortably in 2007 and the next year began to write off his country’s future because of the effects of a warming global climate on sea levels.

He began pushing a policy of mass migration from Kiribati and called for other nations to open their borders to people fleeing the country…

No word on whether the Gastonguays accept climate change or if they believe global warming is “just God hugging us closer.”

(Thanks to Lauren 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.

  • ShoeUnited

    I almost want to call bullshit. This is just too hilarious to be believed (aside the very real threat to Kiribati).

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    This is high comedy – except for the fact that, apparently, it’s real.

    • Dorothy

      and except for the fact that the kids are being endangered and dragged around the globe when they should be getting an education

      • Mario Strada

        So far their education has been invaluable. For instance, they learned at a tender age that their parents are crazy. Usually one has to wait until the teenage years to find that out.

        • koseighty

          Sadly, they most likely have not. They will have learned instead that the lord tests the faithful and that we must endure whatever he sees fit to inflict upon us.

        • C Peterson

          A lesson that is usually lost. More often than not, the kids just catch the crazy.

          • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

            I know plenty of atheists raised by Evangelicals, including myself. Of course my parents never would have tried to sail across the Pacific Ocean but they do watch a good bit of Fox News and think there’s a war on Christmas.

            • WallofSleep

              I keep hearing about this “war on Christmas” crap, but all I ever get on Christmas are socks and underwear.

              Don’t get me wrong, I’m no blood-lusting violence lover, but getting a war on Christmas instead of undies would be a welcome break from the “same old, same old”.

            • C Peterson

              Sure. But the most common way people become religious wingnuts is to be born into it. I’m afraid only a small percentage of the kids of these sorts become atheists. Most catch the crazy.

  • Dorothy

    They sure were glad to be rescued to the country they are so critical of.

    Any god worthy of praise wouldn’t have forsaken them like that. If he
    couldn’t have prevented it, then he is not omnipotent. If he could have
    prevented it but didn’t, then he is malevolent. If he was neither able
    nor willing, then he is no god at all.

    • NickDB

      Unfortunately cretins like these think that it was god who saved them. Same as it’s god who cures cancer, deploy air bags and let’s their team score the winning points.

      • Willy Occam

        …without acknowledging the flip side of the coin: that their God might be responsible for the cancer, the car accident, and the times their team loses.

    • eric

      Actually, they were rescued by a Venezuelan fishing trawler, transferred to a Japanese boat, and then the US arranged for their flight home from wherever that ship next docked.

      • MD

        They were rescued by bolivarian socialists!

  • http://be.net/mattcoddington matt

    A three hour irrationally-religious-paranoia-induced tour?

    • ShoeUnited

      If only they wouldn’t have had religion. Then they would have brought a professor.

      • WallofSleep

        Sorry, but there are some things that just can’t be fixed with a Master’s in Coconut Engineering, and I’m guessing that the Gastonguay family might be one of those things.

  • 0xabad1dea

    > “Rahab and Ardith”

    I’ll take “baby names chosen by extraordinarily religious parents” for $500, Alex

    • http://agmmusings.blogspot.com/ Alessia Lane

      Cross referenced with “Names that might be found in The Handmaid’s Tale”

    • Bdole

      Rahab the harlot. Make that “treasonous harlot.”

    • Sue Blue

      Yeah, I knew a fundie family that used to go to my childhood evangelical church (until the church became too “liberal” and they deemed it an apostate church) in the early 80s. They dressed like characters on Little House on the Prairie and cursed their kids with really horrible Biblical names – Dorcas, Rehobeth, Nehemiah (poor kid got called Neomycin more than once) and Jedediah. I later heard that the oldest daughter ran away from home and disappeared and the two younger boys were in drug rehab…

      • Jim Jones

        Yep. Seen similar stuff myself. Funny how often cops’ kids go bad.

  • NotThatGreg

    I’ve got a strong feeling that “Freedom Ship” (google it) is the same concept on a much larger scale.

  • Stev84

    They probably didn’t have any experience making such large trips with a sail boat either.

    • koseighty

      Well Noah didn’t have any experience either. But the lord guided him and he did just fine. (You know, except for the part about never existing in the first place.)

      • WallofSleep

        Nah, Noah was real. He used to live down the block from me when we were teenagers. We used to steal booze from his grandpa’s liquor cabinet.

        • koseighty

          Sounds like Noah was a real mentsh.

          • WallofSleep

            Heh, actually he was kind of a prick; sort of a small-time, neighborhood bully when we were pre-teens. It’s funny how a mutual love of alcohol can make friends out of enemies over time, though.

  • midnight rambler

    You missed one of the best parts from the article:

    Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.

    Yeah, I’m pretty tired of state-church involvement too.

    • allein

      Something tells me they don’t have too much of a problem with church-controlled state…as long as it’s their church, of course.

  • newenglandbob

    They NEED government intervention to take away the children that they seriously endangered. That is child abuse.

    • gurukalehuru

      100% agreement.

    • The Other Weirdo

      No. Child abuse started years before when they gave them those names.

  • http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-los-angeles/hugh-kramer Hugh Kramer

    The stupidity… it burns!

  • more compost

    What is up with that map? Kiribati is a single island, yet that map shades in a huge expanse of ocean with many many islands, and also has two different arrows pointing to two places hundreds of miles apart, and says that both are Kiribati.

    • Green_Sapphire

      Kiribati is “a nation is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island”. Kiribati is pronounced ‘ keer-ree-bahss’ . (For people who might discuss this story IRL.)

      Its capital, Tarawa, is on South Tarawa Island. The largest
      island is Christmas Island (Kiritimati kee-ree-tee-mahss). Check out the amazing annual migration of 120,000,000 giant red crabs on Christmas Island.

      Kiribati has islands in the northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere, eastern longitudes and western longitudes, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometres.

      • Sam Cooper

        The crab migration is on Christmas Island, Australia south of Jakarta, Indonesia. There are 2 Christmas Islands. The one related to this story is south of Hawaii.

  • Will Dunn

    The stupid have no bounds, The stupid people that actually “believes” some invisible god can somehow help them evade stupidity astounds me. I wish I could articulate my thoughts better but apparently logic or actual intellegance is to difficult for individuals such as these “believers”. But what do I know?

    • Carpinions

      This is why the rhetoric and alternate reality reporting on the right side of the political spectrum is so disturbing. Their own true believers are taking what their media says at face value and literally wandering off into the great expanses of the world’s largest ocean with their family, without guidance, without reliable power, under the direction of deep superstition, and coming up nearly shipwrecked and or dead because of it.

      It can be said that these parents might have done this even in another place or time, but this is becoming increasingly common lately. There are some conservatives that apparently feel that the Earth is physically closing in on them.

  • Jabberwock

    The Mosquito Coast…

  • AtheismbyFire

    Does anyone else see the irony in this story of a family from a desert floating around on a ship aimlessly by some unseen direction from a god? I do wonder if they had to use a bird to detect land?

  • RetweetLister

    Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,

    A tale of a fateful trip

    That started from this tropic port

    Aboard this tiny ship.

    The mate was a mighty sailing man,

    The skipper brave and sure.

    Five passengers set sail that day

    For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

    The weather started getting rough,

    The tiny ship was tossed,

    If not for the courage of the fearless crew

    The minnow would be lost, the minnow would be lost.

    The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle

    With Gilligan

    The Skipper too,

    The millionaire and his wife,

    The movie star

    The professor and Mary Ann,

    Here on Gilligans Isle.

    So this is the talel of the castways,

    They’re here for a long, long time,

    They’ll have to make the best of things,

    It’s an uphill climb.

    The first mate and the Skipper too,

    Will do their very best,

    To make the others comfortable,

    In the tropic island nest.

    No phone, no lights no motor cars,

    Not a single luxury,

    Like Robinson Crusoe,

    As primative as can be.

    So join us here each week my freinds,

    You’re sure to get a smile,

    From seven stranded castways,

    Here on “Gilligan’s Isle.”

    • Cake

      Fixed it for you.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      In my head, this:

      “No phone, no lights no motor cars,
      Not a single luxury,
      Like Robinson Crusoe,
      As primative as can be.”

      segued into this:

      “We been spending most our lives living in an Amish paradise…”

      • Timothy R Alexander

        I actually have a friend who wishes she was born amish. one of the most bat shit crazy things I can think of.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Huh. Do the Amish take converts?

          • Timothy R Alexander

            No idea. Truth be told I dont think she has any idea what an amish community is like, she just reads those crappy amish fiction books from authors like Beverly Lewis

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Oy. *headdesk*

          • allein
        • ShoeUnited

          The biggest hurdle I can think of to convert to Amish is that you’d have to learn Dutch.

        • spookiewon

          I can think of religions I think are more harmful. The Amish aren’t big into pushing their beliefs on to everyone else via the government.

  • Erp

    Three adults, a baby, and a 3 year old, foolish? Also they had a radio so why didn’t they call for help earlier (or was the radio not sufficiently powerful?). I couldn’t find any info on the size of their yacht (except it was big enough to fly a genoa but they could neither reef it nor fly a smaller jib).

    BTW I wonder if they had any guns; Kiribati has pretty strict gun control laws.

    Also Kiribati is several groups of islands over the area shown (Gilbert, Line, and Phoenix islands). Admittedly only 20 or so are inhabited.

    • Hat Stealer

      Radio waves are the farts of Satan doncha’ know.

    • Yoav

      It probably went something like this:
      Before setting sail
      Mom: Do you think we should pack this manual we got for the radio?
      Dad: Na’h, we got bibles, all the knowledge in the world is in the bible, we don’t need no stinking atheist manual.
      Mom: Du’h right.
      some time later, the middle of the ocean
      Mom: We seem to be stuck and I can’t figure out the radio.
      Dad: what does the bible say?
      Mom: I can find stuff about not eating shrimps but nothing about operating a marine radio, do you know which verses explain how to work one?
      Dad: Just pray on it.

    • Nerull

      It doesn’t take that big of a boat to fly a genoa, and I certainly hope they were not so stupid as to set sail across the pacific in a lake cruiser.

      But then again, sailing for jesus.

      If this boat wasn’t setup for transocean cruises (Who doesn’t pack a storm jib on an ocean sail?), they may have only had a VHF radio which have a useful range of 30 miles or so.

  • Daniel Moran


  • diogeneslamp0

    A new charitable foundation: RRRR (Rubber Rafts for the Religious Right).

    Let’s buy this poor family a new boat!… NOW!

  • diogeneslamp0

    Children, Jesus wants you to drink your own pee.

  • Ryan Fox

    Here is a fun fact: Kiribati in the native language means Lost and the Kiribati Island is the Island that starred in the TV series Lost.

    I’m just kidding. I made all that shit up.

  • diogeneslamp0

    Screenplay idea: religious right family, lost at sea, is rescued by a gay theme cruise ship. Hilarity ensues.

    Casting suggestions welcome.

    • Artor

      Shore Leave from the Venture Bros. He’s a hero, right?

    • NG

      Mel Gibson as the dad or granddad. John Travolta as the cruise ship’s captain.

      • gurukalehuru

        With Neil Patrick Harris as “Gopher.”

      • GrantP

        Actually… Captain Jack Harkness.
        I’m sorry, it was just meant to be.

      • spookiewon

        Travolta as a xian. THAT’s a stretch! Seriously? TRAVOLTA? The poster boy for Scientology?

    • Michael S.

      better copyright that shit before you see it made in 2 years

      • Claiborne White

        Their writing it here can effectively be considered an act of copyright

        • Michael S.

          don’t really think so and I wasn’t being too serious because you can’t copyright ideas

        • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic


          • Michael S.

            their.. is possessive.. as in their writing.. smh

          • Claiborne White

            Actually, I wanted the possessive their, not the plural They Are. So I got it correct.
            If you want to be a grammar nazi, at least know your grammar.

            • http://confessionsfromthepeanutgallery.blogspot.com/ YankeeCynic

              Your sentence was poorly constructed enough to be ambiguous either way.

              If you don’t want people attempting to correct you like I did, dare I say you ought to construct your sentences better.

              • spookiewon

                No, it wasn’t ambiguous at all. He obviously needed the possessive and used the possessive. You’re just plain wrong here. Stop trying to make up something to cover for it.

          • spookiewon

            No, he was right. Their. They’re is a contraction for they are, and “They are writing it here can effectively be considered an act of copyright” doesn’t make sense.

        • Gerry Mooney

          “Their” is correct here but you still need a period.

    • Timmybear

      Helen Mirren and Tilda Swinton as the cruise ship captain and entertainment director respectively.

      • Edmond

        This trip sounded more like it was run by Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford…

    • Joseph George

      Better yet, SOuthpark episode. The Cruise is ran by Big Gay Al.

  • diogeneslamp0

    C’mon guys, if we all chip in we can buy them a new boat!

    I’d throw in a fiver.

    • http://be.net/mattcoddington matt

      I’ll pray for them. That’s worth all the fivers in the world, right?

      • trj

        Pray hard enough and you’ll be able to move mountains, so the Bible tells us. So someone could just pray to move the Kiribati Islands to Arizona. Much easier than having to take a boat across the Pacific, and at the same time it solves the islanders’ problem of rising sea levels.

  • diogeneslamp0

    It’s just like “Life of Pi”, except the tiger was smarter.

  • Bdole

    God allows second chances. If at first you don’t succeed, try TRY again. Seriously, get the fuck out of this country and take as many of your cohorts as you can.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty
  • joe smith

    Sounds like the idiots who were ‘totally gonna move to Europe” when Bush got elected down here and Harper up in Canada.

    • WallofSleep

      Or that idiot Limbaugh who claimed he was gonna move to Costa Rica or some such place if Obama was elected.

      It’s funny, how dumb-asses from all over the political spectrum “threaten” to take their ball and go elsewhere if they don’t get their way, yet they never do us the favor of making good on such promises.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        I think that was if Obamacare was enacted. Of course Costa Rica has socialized medicine but Limbaugh has never let facts get in the way of a rant. It was Ted Nugent who claimed that if Obama was re-elected he’d be dead or in prison within a year. We’re still waiting to see which it’s going to be.

        • WallofSleep

          Ah, that’s right. You are correct. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Guest

    FYI: Their target destination’s name is pronounced ‘ki ri bas’ . (For people who might discuss this story IRL.

  • Yoav

    Less then little fucking spammers craping links to their site all over the place.

  • gurukalehuru

    Seriously, remove those kids from their parents. The kids will be way better off. The parents will howl religious persecution, but they are howling religious persecution anyway.

  • baal

    “I hope it involves a moratorium on watching FOX News and getting a
    real education about the intersection of church and state in our

    Hemant gets wicked.

  • WallofSleep

    Significantly less than cyber stalkers who issue death threats. Sound familiar?

  • Compuholic

    The family says they will now return to Arizona to “come up with a new plan.”

    Pro tip: Next time take a plane. It will be a lot faster and you can be fairly sure that the pilot actually knows how to navigate.

  • cipher

    The family says they will now return to Arizona to “come up with a new plan.”

    Yeah, I can’t wait to hear what that one is.

  • nickandrew

    Kiribati? What better place to demonstrate their faith that Yahweh won’t let us destroy the planet?

  • Gabriel

    Rehab and Addict. I now that those aren’t the real names but it is what I see when I look at them. When they get back to Arizona I would suggest that they be met by the child protection service of the state. But it is in Arizona so there may be very little that can be done.

  • Timmybear

    I suppose they were the same people who thought the Gulf Oil War was about defending democracy in Kuwait.

  • Without Malice

    I guess that “leap of faith” thing didn’t work out to well, and it would appear that where God was leading them was to an early death.

  • kanehau

    I’ve been to Fanning Island in Kiribati, and it is barely above sea-level. Just a few feet.

    Very pretty place but very isolated and I wouldn’t want to be there during bad weather.

    Oh, and zero sanitation. The locals dig into the beach on one side of the island, make holes, poop, and either cover them or leave them for the tides. (Probably makes sense because anytime you dig down there, you hit the sea).

  • TopHatProfessor1014

    There’s really nothing to be done about the parents, but I feel really bad for the children. I’m not sure how old they are, but they’ve probably been really indoctrinated by now.

  • Sinfanti

    Ah, a story like this wouldn’t be complete without some mention of Arizona, would it?

  • Ogre Magi

    what stupid people

  • eric

    Sell the boat and buy 5 one-way plane tickets, you idiots. Depending on the boat, you’ll probably end up with a bunch of cash after that transaction.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Somebody, check quickly. Was there a natural disaster somewhere in the world at the same time this family was on the water? If there was, maybe God was distracted by all the fun of smiting ants and let his chosen family float around the ocean.

  • Carpinions

    Gee, I wonder what the “pro-life” calculus was when considering taking your children on an extremely dangerous trip inadvertently involving months of bobbing and weaving at sea with no one around for thousands of miles, across violent ocean waters without proper navigation equipment or guidance.

    Never put it past the anti-choicers to be the single most self-involved people when children are present.

    Can’t wait to hear about their re-committment to god once the evil government lands them safely back in Arizona, after we all pay for the parents’ jackassery.

  • Joe

    I’m a believer, but this still makes me facepalm so hard

  • Antoine Desales