10 Things I Learned About the UpStairs Lounge Arson, the Biggest LGBT Mass Murder in America’s History

Forty-two years ago today, an almost unimaginable inferno, caused by arson, burned and suffocated 32 people to death. All were patrons of New Orleans’ UpStairs Lounge, a gay bar. I wrote about it in 2013 here.

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading Johnny Townsend‘s 2011 book about the massacre, Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire. For all its shortcomings, including a disjointed narrative structure, it’s a gripping account of the horrors that transpired that night, as well as a respectful remembrance of the victims, all of whom get a dedicated chapter.

Here, in direct quotes from Townsend’s tome, are ten things I learned about the UpStairs Lounge fire:

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Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 60: Dianna E. Anderson, Purity Culture Critic

Our latest podcast guest is Dianna E. Anderson, author of Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, all about the intersection of the church and sexuality.

Anderson grew up in South Dakota. After stints as an English teacher in Japan and a radio producer in Chicago, she’s turned her focus to writing. Damaged Goods is her first book.

We spoke with her about why sex is often seen as shameful in parts of Christianity, what conversations the broader evangelical church is having about sex, and whether the church can ever become sex-positive. Lots of sex. #Sex

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How Creationism Was Created

With so many Christians harboring Creationist beliefs and using the anti-gay refrain “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” the role of the First Man Ever isn’t one we can immediately dismiss. Adam (and what he represents) looms large over the faith.

Karl W. Giberson, a scientist and former evangelical Christian, has now written a book explaining the consequences of belief in Adam. It’s called Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World (Beacon Press, 2015):

In the excerpt below, setting the stage for further discussion about Adam, Giberson walks us through how Creationism became so popular in the first place:

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Friendly Atheist Podcast Episode 58: Jessica Hagy, Cartoonist and Author of The Art of War Visualized

Our latest podcast guest is Jessica Hagy, a cartoonist and writer best known for her insightful and hilarious webcomic Indexed, in which she draws charts and Venn diagrams connecting completely different ideas and getting us to think about them in different ways.

Her latest book is The Art of War Visualized. It’s the Sun Tzu classic reworked and with illustrations.

During a recent stop in Chicago, we spoke about her career change from copywriter to professional author/illustrator, where she finds inspiration for her work, and how her cartoons made their way into my math classes.

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What Religious Cults Seem to Have in Common

Jeff C. Stevenson first heard of the “All Saved Freak Band” in the 1970s. He listened to their music, thought it was unique, and continued to acquire their albums over the years. It was only later that he realized the band was really just an outreach tool for Rev. Larry Hill’s Church of the Risen Christ, a group with a mysterious and seemingly-shady history.

When he finally got in touch with one of the band members to hear the backstory, he also gained access to several other members of the church. It turns out the group was a cult, replete with brainwashing and abuse (“emotional, physical, sexual and mental”). Three members ultimately died and another was permanently disfigured as a result of following Hill.

Now, after speaking with 17 survivors, Stevenson is finally sharing their stories in Fortney Road: The True Story of Life, Death, and Deception in a Christian Cult (Freethought House, 2015):

In the excerpt below, Stevenson talks about the similarities many cults have with one-another and where Larry Hill fits in:

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