August 28, 2015

Experts report as many as 400 pastors, deacons, elders and church staff members will resign this Sunday after their names surfaced on the list of users revealed in the Ashley Madison hack.

Writing for Christianity Today, Ed Stetzer, the executive director of LifeWay Research, and a well-regarded expert on church leadership, reports:

Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be.

The fallout from the Ashley Madison hack has been troubling for many users, particularly religious conservatives.

Family values advocate and serial child molester Josh Duggar was but one high-profile conservative Christian exposed as a user of the infamous website for individuals interested in arranging extramarital affairs.

In addition to Duggar, another high profile conservative Christian caught in the Ashley Madison storm was Christian YouTube star Sam Rader.

However, the shame of hypocrisy is not reserved for Christian conservatives only. Friendly Atheist reports Hamza Tzortzis, a Muslim apologist and lecturer for the Islamic Education and Research Academy was also a user of the Ashley Madison site.

While there is a great deal of schadenfreude in seeing pompous “holier than thou” religious figures being exposed as hypocrites, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Ashley Madison hack was a crime placing many private citizens at risk.

The hack and release of such sensitive and personal information raises real concerns about the right to privacy, and the morality of “outing” individuals for their private behavior in the bedroom.

Former congressman Barney Frank, speaking with Bill Maher on Real Time about the the right to privacy in the context of outing of gay politicians, made the following comment:

There’s a right to privacy. But the right to privacy should not be a right to hypocrisy. People who want to demonize other people shouldn’t then be able to go home and close the door, and do it themselves.

Frank’s analysis seems fair and just. People who are paid to stand up every Sunday and preach to the flock that adultery is a sin, while at the same time using a web site to cheat on their spouse, are hypocrites and legitimate targets for outing, and probably should resign.

Bottom line: Practice what you preach. Or better yet, don’t preach at all.


(Image via Wikimedia)
(Image via Wikimedia)
August 25, 2015

Raise your girls to breathe fire: A viral Facebook post warns parents about the dangers of religious extremism.

In a recent Facebook post titled “feeling like I’m fixing to preach about some Duggars” Jessica Krammes Kirkland, a suburban Atlanta mom, goes off on the sad fate of Anna Duggar, the wife of the now notorious Josh Duggar, in the wake of multiple public scandals.

Last month TLC cancelled “19 Kids and Counting,” after it was revealed that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, sexually assaulted four of his underage sisters plus an additional underage female victim.

Adding insult to injury, last week Josh Duggar released a statement declaring “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever” and admitting to living a “double life” while confirming his involvement with Ashley Madison, the infamous website for individuals interested in arranging extramarital affairs.

In her viral Facebook post, Kirkland pleads with parents to raise their daughters to have self-respect amidst the news that Anna Duggar is remaining by her husband’s side despite the recent scandals.

In her post, Kirkland comments on Anna Duggar’s upbringing, noting “Anna Duggar is in the worst position she could possibly be in right now,” before offering the following observation:

Anna Duggar was crippled by her parents by receiving no education, having no work experience (or life experience, for that matter) and then was shackled to this loser because his family was famous in their religious circle. Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother. Anna Duggar did that! Anna Duggar followed the rules that were imposed on her from the get-go and this is what she got in reward- a husband who she found out, in the span of 6 months, not only molested his own sisters, but was unfaithful to her in the most humiliating way possible. While she was fulfilling her “duty” of providing him with four children and raising them. She lived up to the standard that men set for her of being chaste and Godly and in return, the man who demanded this of her sought women who were the opposite. “Be this,” they told her. She was. It wasn’t enough.

Kirkland continues, asking:

What is Anna Duggar supposed to do? She can’t divorce because the religious environment she was brought up would blame her and ostracize her for it. Even if she would risk that, she has no education and no work experience to fall back on, so how does she support her kids? From where could she summon the ability to turn her back on everything she ever held to be sacred and safe? Her beliefs, the very thing she would turn to for comfort in this kind of crisis, are the VERY REASON she is in this predicament in the first place. How can she reconcile this? Her parents have utterly, utterly failed her.

Think of this: somewhere, Anna Duggar is sitting in prayer, praying not for the strength to get out and stand on her own, but for the strength to stand by this man she is unfortunately married to. To lower herself so that he may rise up on her back.

Kirkland states that parents must raise confident daughters that are not “beholden to men,” before concluding:

As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.

Kirkland makes some great points. The dangers of Christian fundamentalism like that practiced by the Duggars cannot be emphasized enough. However, Anna Duggar is not the only victim.

Ultimately, both Josh and Anna Duggar are victims: victims of Christian patriarchy, victims of Christian homeschooling, victims of Christian parents who raised their children to be ideological props in their perverted and deluded fantasy of Christian dominion.

Both Josh and Anna are victims of the radical Christian lifestyle known as the Quiverfull movement, a movement where children are considered canon fodder in the Lord’s army: culture warriors bred to promote an ugly, intolerant, sexist, and homophobic brand of Christian extremism.

As a product of the Quiverfull movement, both Josh and Anna Duggar were raised to be cannon fodder in a Christian Holy War. As such, they should both have our sympathy, as should their children.

Let us hope as parents, both Josh and Anna Duggar manage to escape the cycle of religious abuse they have been forced to live, if for no other reason, than for the sake of their children.

Josh and Anna Duggar (Image via Instagram)
Josh and Anna Duggar (Image via Instagram)
August 13, 2015

Florida couple forces teen into sexual slavery using the Bible and their Christian faith to justify their heinous actions.

After a victim of Christian homeschooling stepped forward to tell her harrowing tale of sexual and physical abuse in the name of the Lord a couple in Florida couple have been arrested for allegedly turning the girl into their sex slave.

ABC reports the unidentified 13-year-old girl was sent to live with Rob and Marie Johnson after her mother died. Immediately after her arrival the girl was told she could only be part of their family by having sex with the couple.

The Port St. Lucie Police Department said the girl, now 21, was homeschooled, not allowed to use the phone and forced to rehearse what to say to doctors if she was asked about sexual activity.

The girl was ordered to call Rob Johnson “Master” and required to submit to his and Marie Johnson’s sexual advances. The girl was raped by the couple twice a week for five years.

According to police, the girl, who is not identified, was beaten when she didn’t follow the couple’s directions or complete her chores.

Raw Story reports the couple believed in Old Testament law regarding marriage, under which a man can have many wives who are ultimately his property.

This pernicious and persistent problem of child marriage is one of the dirty secrets of the Christian homeschool movement. Recently Michael Farris, Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, issued a statement expressing concern about “a very serious problem” that he sees “surfacing in Christian and conservative circles.” The problem: the “minimum age for marriage” and the prospect of parental sanctioned child marriage.

In his statement, Farris expressed concern about what he called “a growing tendency in the Christian and conservative movement to be seduced by a spirit of anarchy” as it relates to laws prohibiting child marriage and protecting children.

This most recent and tragic case in Florida is yet another example of the dangers of associated with the toxic combination of homeschooling and religious extremism.

The threat of rape and child marriage is not the only hazard faced by children forced into the dark and sometimes dangerous world of Christian homeschooling. One need only recall the tragic life and death of Leelah Alcorn, or the tragic circumstances of the Duggar family, to recognize the dangers inherent in the Christian homeschool movement.

True to their faith, Rob and Marie Johnson held Sunday school classes for their family at their home every week. The Lord works in mysterious ways….

(Image via Screen Grab)
(Image via Screen Grab)
June 17, 2015

Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who pretended to be black, was a victim of extreme Christian indoctrination and Young Earth Creationism as a child.

Dolezal, the disgraced former NAACP leader, is currently at the center of a media firestorm after being exposed as a white woman posing as a black woman. However, what is not being widely reported is the physical, mental, and intellectual abuse Dolezal suffered as a child.

Dolezal is a victim of her parents radical Christian extremism.

Reports indicate that Dolezal grew up in an abusive home where corporal punishment was common, and access to TV, books, and other outside influences was strictly limited; a home where dinner was denied until the Bible was read; a home where the parents spoke in tongues and treated the adoption of additional children as a means of evangelism and proof of their extreme faith.

Reverb Press reports Dolezal’s parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, are Young Earth creationists. In fact, Larry once worked for Creation Ministries International, which is run by Ken Ham, the celebrity Young Earth creationist and Christian fundamentalist behind the infamous Creation Museum.

Before the scandal, in an interview with The Easterner, Dolezal discussed her extreme Christian upbringing and abuse, explaining that her parents abused her and her four adopted black siblings with a “baboon whip.”

Speaking of the abuse suffered at the hands of her extreme Christian parents, Dolezal said:

It’s a painful thing to talk about my childhood.

The physical abuse of children is common among extreme conservative Christians like Young Earth creationists. In such homes discipline is often confused with corporal punishment and beatings, and often those beatings involve a “rod,” or some other implement beside the hand.

In fact, many Young Earth creationists feel unable to make moral decisions without divine guidance. The man who Dolezal’s father went to work for and supported when she was a child, Ken Ham, recently argued that without God’s guidance there would be nothing preventing him from sexually abusing children or animals.

Ham is not unique among Young Earth creationists in his self-reported inability to engage in moral reasoning without the crutch of an imaginary God.  Recently another leader of the Young Earth creationist movement, Eric Hovind, argued that if evolution is true, it wasn’t wrong for Josh Duggar to sexually assault little girls, including his sisters, “because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter.”

Such obscene and immoral arguments are common among Young Earth creationists, where morality is dependent upon the commands of some imaginary God, and without a God to judge, everything is permissible, including the sexual assault of little girls.

Growing up in such an emotionally and intellectually confusing and threatening environment is difficult for any child. To be taught the patently false notion that the earth is only 6,000 years old, that the Biblical flood is an actual historical event, and all the other attending nonsense associated with such radical and extreme views does real damage to children struggling to distinguish reality from the fantasies of their deluded parents.

While the emotional, intellectual, and physical abuse Dolezal suffered as a child at the hands of her Christian extremist parents is no excuse for her deception and dishonest behavior, it may be useful in trying to explain and understand her actions.

After all, being raised in the upside down, backwards world of a Young Earth creationist or similar Christian extremist home must have devastating effects on any child. The fact is children are vulnerable, and lack the emotional and intellectual tools to process and come to terms with their parents profound failure to understand and accept the world as it is given.

To be indoctrinated and brainwashed at such a young age would be a difficult hardship for any child, and perhaps for Rachel Dolezal, it proved too much. Escaping the ugly world of her parents’ Christian extremism, Dolezal may have reinvented herself, exchanging one fantasy world for another.

(For more on this story, see Love, Joy, Feminism)

(Image via YouTube)
(Image via YouTube)
June 15, 2015

In the dark and sometimes dangerous world of Christian homeschoolers, children are treated as property, often with tragic consequence.

A recent Facebook discussion illuminates some of the dangers the daughters of Christian homeschoolers face, dangers like arranged marriages, often at a very young age.

In a post to his Facebook page, Michael Farris, Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, issued a statement expressing concern about “a very serious problem” that he sees “surfacing in Christian and conservative circles.”

The problem: the “minimum age for marriage” and the prospect of parental sanctioned child marriage.

In his statement, Farris expressed concern about what he called “a growing tendency in the Christian and conservative movement to be seduced by a spirit of anarchy” as it relates to laws prohibiting child marriage and protecting children. Farris writes:

The way we test the propriety of a proposed legal rule is to take the rule to its extreme and see how we like the results. So I asked whether a parent should be permitted to give their permission to allow a 7 year old to be married to a 30 year old pedophile. The legal issue is the same whether or not there is a “dowry” (cash payment) offered by the “bridegroom.”

Though they are exceedingly rare, there are parents who would permit this kind of outrageous transaction. Such a plan is inherently evil and should be punished.

Farris, a leading proponent and defender of Christian homeschoolers, is right to be concerned, and should be commended for speaking out on this one point.

There can be no doubt that the Christian homeschool movement is built, in part, on the notion that parental rights trump the rights of children, and that parental rights should trump the right of the state to protect children from abusive parents. Sometimes that extreme view of parental rights translates into the attempted normalization of child marriage.

Writing at Love, Joy, Feminism, Libby Anne has done a great job exposing many of the problems associated with Christian homeschoolers, including child marriage. Writing about Michael Farris warning Christian homeschoolers about the dangers of promoting child marriage, Libby Anne briefly describes a popular stance in Christian homeschooling circles as embodied by a couple of popular conservative Christian homeschool advocates:

Maranatha Chapman married a much-older man at age 15, and the story of her courtship and wedding was told and retold as a model and aspiration in Christian homeschooling circles in the 1990s. In 2008, Maranatha’s daughter, Lauren, also married a much-older man. She had just turned 16.

The Chapmans don’t just practice child marriage, they also preach it, encouraging other homeschooling parents to follow their lead, even arguing that “a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.”

In another post, Libby Anne quotes from an article written by Matthew Chapman, a Christian homeschooling advocate who was 26 when he first expressed interest in his then 13 year-old-bride to be Maranatha Chapman. At 27, Matthew, asked Maranatha’s father for his permission to marry his 14-year-old daughter.  The father agreed, and the couple was married when Maranatha was 15 and Matthew was 28.

Arguing in support of child marriage in an article titled “Thoughts on Betrothal (15 Years Later),” Chapman writes:

Parents, I would also charge you to consider this. The way many Christian homeschooling parents raise their daughters, they mature rather quickly and develop significant capacities by a relatively young age. By their middle-teens, many daughters (but by no means all) possess the maturity and skills to run their own home. My point is to encourage you to be open to the Lord and take to heart that some of your daughters may be ready to marry sooner than your preconceived ideas have allowed for. And why not, if they are truly ready? What is the purpose of holding out for a predetermined numeric age if they are legitimately prepared and the Lord has brought His choice of a young man along for her? Don’t be surprised if this is some of the fruit of your good parenting in bringing forth mature, well-equipped, Godly young daughters. However, I seldom think this will be the case for most young men—it takes them (us) a lot longer to get to where they need to be. I have also seen that, oftentimes, a difference in age—even a significant one—with the man being older, helps make for a better fit.

Note: Child marriage is always about a young woman (girl) marrying a much older man. The transaction is facilitated by the parents of the bride, and sometimes monetary payments figure into the the transaction.

Earlier this year, in yet another tale of horror from the Christian homeschool movement, a young woman explained how she narrowly escaped child marriage after being sold by her family for $25,000 into an arranged marriage to a man twice her age.

It is important to note, however, that not all parents engaged in the dubious task of Christian homeschooling favor child marriage, and in fact many of those parents engaged in Christian homeschooling are well-meaning if otherwise seriously deluded individuals.

Yet the threat of child marriage is not the only hazard faced by children forced into the dark and sometimes dangerous world of Christian homeschooling. One need only recall the tragic life and death of Leelah Alcorn, or the tragic circumstances of the Duggar family, to recognize the dangers inherent in the Christian homeschool.

(H/T Love, Joy, Feminism)

The Chapmans: Maranatha (15) and Matthew (28) (Image via Patheos)
The Chapmans: Maranatha (15) and Matthew (28) (Image via Patheos)
June 11, 2015

Celebrity creationist and Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham argues that the only thing preventing him from having sex with animals is his imaginary God.

For Ham, without his imaginary God, everything is morally permissible, and he seems to be particularly fixated on the possibilities of bestiality.

Earlier this week Ham used his blog to attack pop star Miley Cyrus, after the young entertainer made some wise remarks concerning the poverty of conservative Christian values and the ignorance of believing that the story of Noah’s Ark is true.

In the NSFW interview, Cyrus also spoke about her experience being a sex-positive, gender-fluid, bisexual:

I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult—anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me.

Ham responded to the pop star’s revelation about her sex-positive stance with several rhetorical questions that reveal much more about Ham than Cyrus.

Ham writes:

Question for her: Why not involve an animal? On what basis does she decide that? Besides, if there’s no God and she’s just a result of evolution, then she is merely an animal anyway. And those she interacts with sexually are just animals—so why not any animals? In other words, she has decided to draw a line for some reason—but what reason? It’s actually because in her heart she knows God exists (Romans 1), she knows she is different from the animals as she is made in God’s image (Genesis 1)—and she has a conscience (as seared as it is because of her sinful rebellion) because the law is written on our hearts (Romans 2).

Question for her: Why only those over the age of 18? On what basis did she decide that? If there’s no God, why have any age restriction? On what basis would she argue against pedophilia? Why not do whatever anyone wants to do?

Ham’s comments indicate that without his imaginary God, he would feel no moral prohibition against raping animals or children. Apparently, Ham has no moral compass, and without his imaginary God to tell him right from wrong, he would not know that it is morally reprehensible to have sex with beings that do not and cannot give consent, beings like children and animals.

This strange and perverse idea that if evolution is true, everything and anything is morally permissible, including the rape of animals and children, is a common theme among Christian creationists and other Christian fundamentalists.

Recently, another leading Christian creationist, Eric Hovind, argued that if evolution is true, it wasn’t wrong for Josh Duggar to sexually assault little girls, “because what one evolved bag of molecules does to another bag of molecules just doesn’t really matter.”

The simple minded moral arguments (if they can be called arguments at all) made by creationists like Ham and Hovind are absurd obscenities that reveal a profound poverty of both intellect and character.

Bottom line: In a contest of intellectual equals, Ken Ham challenged the moral reasoning of Miley Cyrus, and lost. However, for the sake of the innocent children and animals, let’s hope Ken Ham keeps believing in his imaginary God.

The Devolution of Ken Ham (Image via Facebook)
The Devolution of Ken Ham (Image via Facebook)
December 31, 2014

For atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers: The following are the 20 most popular posts of 2014, as determined by number of page views calculated via Google Analytics.

20) Marlo Thomas tells Today Show: ‘It’s not a miracle, it’s science’

Giving credit where credit is due: Marlo Thomas corrects Today Show host by explaining that boy’s cancer cure was not the result of a miracle, but science.

19) Woman kills toddler while reenacting story of Abraham

Bible study gone wrong: Inspired by a church sermon on the Book of Genesis, a Florida woman allegedly killed a 2-year-old girl and attempted to kill the girl’s 10-year-old brother in a failed attempt to recreate the Biblical story of Abraham.

18) Creepy Christian ‘Purity Balls’ objectify and degrade young women

Purity Balls, where a daughter’s worth is determined by the state of her hymen, are currently all the rage among America’s Christian extremists.

17) Florida elected officials walk out on atheist invocation

Atheists face official bigotry and discrimination in Lake Worth, Florida: In an act of disrespect, four out of five City Commissioners, including Mayor Pam Triolo, walk out of a commission meeting to avoid hearing an atheist invocation.

16) Faith-healing parents get 10 years in prison for death of daughter

After choosing prayer over modern medicine, and depriving their daughter of life-saving care, Travis and Wenona Rossiter will each spend 10 years in prison for manslaughter in the faith-healing death of their 12-year-old daughter, Syble Rossiter.

15) After threats and harassment, NC teen abandons atheist group

Sad news: After suffering threats and harassment a North Carolina teen has been forced to abandon her efforts to form a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance at her public high school.

14) Pope Francis says ‘All animals go to heaven’

During his weekly audience at St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis broke from Catholic teaching in order to declare that all animals do, in fact, go to heaven.

13) Mom kills son believing boy would be better off in heaven

A Kansas woman has been charged with first-degree murder after she beat and stabbed her 10-year-old son to death believing the boy would be better off in heaven, free from future suffering.

12) Duggars face public backlash for LGBTQ ‘fear mongering’

Quiverfull of hate: The prodigious baby-making Duggars are in trouble after describing LGBT people as “child predators” and expressing other ugly sentiments motivated by their Christian extremism.

11) Megachurch Pastor says ‘gays must be put to death’

Claiming that being gay is a choice like drug abuse, the senior pastor for a megachurch in Tennessee says that “gays must be put to death” because God commands it.

10) Constitutional horror: Clarence Thomas argues states can establish official religion

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas argues states may establish an official state religion, and sees no problem with an individual state making Christianity the official state religion.

9) Mormons declare war on masturbation in creepy new video

A recently released video by Brigham Young University–Idaho compares masturbators to wounded soldiers, and encourages students to identify to religious officials friends they think are masturbating.

8) Christians report Robin Williams is in hell

Robin Williams is spending an eternity in the fires of hell according to many Christians. The Internet is full of blogs, tweets and comments from the faithful reporting that the beloved actor and comedian is now suffering an eternity of torment, consumed by hell’s fire.

7) American Taliban: Utah modesty police edit girls’ yearbook photos

Female students at a public high school in Utah are angry after their yearbook photos were secretly edited by school administrators to cover up bare arms and modest necklines.

6) Ugandan Minister for Ethics & Integrity says men raping girls is natural

The Right Reverend Father Simon Lokodo, the current State Minister for Ethics & Integrity in Uganda, claims men raping girls is natural, and seems to imply heterosexual rape is morally preferable to consensual homosexual activity.

5) Texas approves textbooks with Moses as Founding Father

Christian conservatives win, children lose: Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible, and the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

4) Bible Belt leads the nation in consumption of gay porn

Folks in the Bible Belt watch more gay pornography than anywhere else in the nation according to new numbers released by Pornhub, one of the world’s biggest porn sites.

3) Transgender teen commits suicide, cites Christian parents in blog

After years of abuse and rejection from strict Christian parents, an Ohio transgender teen commits suicide by stepping in front of a moving tractor trailer truck.

2) Teen ejected from prom after dads experience ‘impure thoughts’

American Taliban: A 17-year-old girl was ejected from her prom in Virginia after several fathers in attendance complained about experiencing “impure thoughts” towards the teen.

1) Christian zealot beheads teen for practicing witchcraft.

Christian terror? In a grisly murder an Oklahoma college student with strong Christian beliefs nearly decapitates a young man because the victim practiced witchcraft.

In the end, this list is a result of a popularity contest, and should be treated as such. The stories here are not necessarily the most important or significant of 2014, but simply the stories that garnered the most page views.

As 2014 comes to an end, and as 2015 begins, we wish to thank all our readers for their support, and wish everyone a Happy New Year!

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