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Why it is Not Insensitive to Compare Fundie Religion to an Abusive Relationship

August 7, 2014

I’m making a departure from my usual practice on this blog to address some complaints about the latest project by Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist. (If you haven’t checked out that site yet, do. It’s a great blog that helps keep track of violations of the separation between church and state, but it also provides many great resources to help people who are leaving religious faith and having to deal with hostile families and their own feelings of “what now?”) This project is an illustrated book currently being crowd-funded, called God is an Abusive Boyfriend (and you should break up).

Chris Stedman, on his Faitheist blog post (Atheist picture book will compare belief in God to an abusive relationship) on the Religion News Service site, summarizes some of the complaints about Mehta’s new proposed book. Some say the project is insensitive to victims of physical abuse. Some say that the expressions on the face of the young woman in the artwork remind them of themselves when they were in abusive relationships. Stedman himself says, “as someone who has professionally counseled people in abusive relationships, I’m very concerned that this cartoonish book might take a flippant approach to a very serious issue.”

First of all, I don’t consider any of the illustrations I’ve seen so far to be “cartoonish,” unless by that word you mean that the drawings of the characters don’t look like photographs. They still look quite real, in fact, but not so real that they look like you are viewing a real young woman in an actual threatening situation. So I would suggest that “cartoonish” is a judgment that viewers bring with them when they look at these illustrations (perhaps for the purpose of discrediting them?); that quality is not inherent in them.

Secondly, I believe that the critics are missing the entire point of the book. It’s only because Mehta takes abusive relationships so seriously that he can make the point he’s making in the book, at all. If one’s relationship to God features all the characteristics that make a relationship so truly, awfully abusive — then it means that the relationship to God is abusive too. And if it’s as bad as a human abusive relationship, you should escape it, run away from it as fast as you can, and probably get counselling to help you recover from it.

Think we’re talking nonexistent “abuse” from a nonexistent being, so it can’t be harmful? Would we tell a psychologically abused woman whose husband never laid a hand on her that she “hasn’t really” been abused? It seems to me that when even some atheists criticize the idea behind Mehta’s book, because you can’t really be harmed by a nonexistent being and therefore you are “making light” of real human abuse, they are the ones who are being dismissive of psychological abuse, which is just as real a form of abuse as being beaten up by a spouse. It took me years to recover from the psychological abuse I experienced as an evangelical Christian.

And if you think that there is no physical abuse, you may not have read about the fundamentalist Christians sending death threats to people they disagree with theologically (and usually politically). This is a regular, frequent occurrence. Nor perhaps are you aware of the strict, usually right-wing churches who, for example, force a teenaged girl to stand up in front of a congregation and “repent” of “having sex” with the youth pastor after she was raped and made pregnant, while the youth pastor is “rebuked” and keeps his job with no further punishment. And often, the physical abuse is very real indeed. I read a statistic a few years ago that said that of all the subgroups in North American society, the group most likely to engage in spousal and child abuse was fundamentalist Christians. (Theologian William Rice, early in the twentieth century, said he would rather beat his child until she was blue, rather than leave her spirit unbroken and amenable to God. Nice.) And who would protest, these days, that you could not make similar observations about physical abuse or death being inflicted on some people who aren’t following the Islamic deity the way they are “supposed” to in certain fundamentalist sects?

Stedman also says, “And as someone who knows many people with very different conceptions of God, I’m frustrated that the book’s central argument seems to treat the breadth of theism so narrowly.”

So…he wants Mehta to criticize all forms of religion in exactly the same way, rather than criticizing just this one abusive form of it? I don’t know why Mr. Stedman would want that. It seems to me that it would make much more sense to point out the characteristics of an abusive relationship to God, so that people who are in one will recognize it and escape, rather than try to address the entire “breadth of theism” in a book about one type of relationship. Following Stedman’s criticism, Mehta is kind of damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. I am absolutely confident that Mr. Stedman is not trying to put Mr. Mehta in that position, so he’ll be “unjustified” no matter what he does. But I think that is what, inadvertently, Stedman has done.

Rather than “dismissing” or “making light of” genuinely abusive relationships, I think the fact that an abusive relationship is an abusive relationship is the entire point. And abusive relationships of any kind are an abomination and should be stopped.


Pat Robertson Projects his own Strategy onto “The Gays” and is Horrified

August 4, 2014

Poor senile Pat Robertson. Apparently, if heterosexuals don’t “conform” to “the gays” (whatever “conform” means), then the gays want to kick all right-thinking people out of America. (Have a gander at this little blurb: Pat Robertson says the gays will kick you out of America if you don’t sleep with them)

No, dear Pat. It’s you and your ilk who want to kick the gays out of America if they don’t “conform” to you and your agenda.

I assure you, old man, “the gays” will never, ever try to force you or any other heterosexual to sleep with them. (They are repulsed by the thought, I assure you.) Even though you won’t extend them the same courtesy, of not trying to force them to sleep with your kind.

It seems to me, Pat, that you are the ones pushing this agenda that has you so horrified. If it sounds awful when it’s applied to you (even though it never actually would be), it’s crystal clear how awful it is when you apply it to them (which you are actually trying to do).

Projection is a fascinating thing, Pat. Perhaps you know what a horrible agenda you’re living by, and you can’t really live with it, so you have to project it onto others to try to get it out of your own head. But hey. THAT DOESN’T WORK. It’s you who are the totalitarians, Robertson. And you’re whining because people are not letting you rule them. Wah!

Archbishop Knew Sex Abuse of Kids was a Crime, Whatever He Says Now

June 11, 2014

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson handled sex abuse cases in Minnesota for 15 years. And he is now categorizing the mishandling of cases as “a mistake,” saying, “Obviously, based on some 25 years later, I would do it differently.” (St. Louis Archbishop Carlson claims to be uncertain if he knew sexual abuse was a crime) But as he recently gave a deposition in a priest sexual abuse case scheduled to be tried on July 7, 2014, he continually claimed that he wasn’t sure whether or not he knew that sexual abuse of children was a crime. Despite the fact that, you know, there’s a memo showing that he knew about it, all right. He knew enough about it to know when the statute of limitations ran out on this sort of thing. Oh yes, that’s being “not sure,” isn’t it?

God (apparently) forbid that he actually use his conscience.

Have a peek at the last paragraph of this memo: Bishop Carlson memo – 1984. Yeah, he knew, all right.

Oh, what handy memory gaps you have!

Oh, what handy memory gaps you have!


Divorce and Conservative Evangelicals: Don’t do as I do; Do as I say

January 19, 2014

A new study is about to be published that examines divorce rates in individual counties and states in the U.S. in the year 2000. Demographers Jennifer Glass from the University of Texas at Austin (Department of Sociology and Population Research Center) and Philip Levchak went over the entire map of the United States, county by county, to check out the divorce rate per every 1000 people. A preliminary summary and examination of the results can be seen in this excellent and detailed press release from the Council on Contemporary FamiliesRed States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding the Impact of Conservative Protestantism on Regional Variation in Divorce Rates.

Photo of men's and women's plain wedding rings

Photo courtesy of Flickr user MyTudut, used under License CC BY-NC SA 2.0 –

What these researchers found was that the divorce rate appears to be higher in states that are more religiously conservative (e.g., the states with the second and third highest divorce rates, Alabama and Arkansas) and lower in more liberal states (e.g., New Jersey and Massachussetts). To be fair (and the researchers also go into this), there are undoubtedly other factors than religion. For example, Arkansas and Alabama’s divorce rate could also be related to the higher poverty rate in those states than the poverty rate in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Another possible explanation (again also examined by these researchers) is a cultural encouragement of earlier marriage. Those who marry earlier have higher divorce rates than those who marry later. So religious affiliation doesn’t have to be the whole story (although it is true that conservative religious culture does, in general, encourage younger marriage).

But you know what? Even if there are other factors than just religious affiliation, according to conservative, evangelicals/fundamentalists’ own preaching and beliefs–it doesn’t matter.

And why not? Well, they are always preaching  that you should stay married for good (except that so many of them don’t), and on top of that, they always preach that if you are “right with God” and “put God first” in your marriage, you can stick it out and make a successful marriage. This either means that a large percentage of their own people don’t even follow their own loudly proclaimed teaching about marriage–or it does not work when they try to do it.

If you are constantly yelling at other people, telling them that if they live the way you tell them to, they’ll live successfully–and you can’t even do it yourself–why, then, we know just how seriously to take your yelling, don’t we?

So no, it doesn’t matter one whit if there are all those other factors. Because these people preach that their godly marriage rules can overcome all those factors and keep us married. But they are less successful at it than all of us heathens. So…no.

Watch for the full study to be published in the American Journal of Sociology.

Thank Goodness those Pedophile Priests were Defrocked and Sent to Jail — Oh, Wait —

January 18, 2014

Photo of Pope Benedict

We got some great news about pedophile priests yesterday. Check out this CBC News article: Pope Benedict defrocked 400 priests in 2 years, document reveals.

In his last two years as pope, Benedict XVI defrocked nearly 400 priests for raping and molesting children, more than twice as many as the two years that preceded a 2010 explosion of sex abuse cases in Europe and beyond, according to a document obtained Friday by The Associated Press and an analysis of Vatican statistics.

The data — 260 priests defrocked in 2011 and 124 in 2012, a total of 384 — represented a dramatic increase over the 171 priests defrocked in 2008 and 2009.

Well! Hallelujah! Good for Benedict; he did more than we thought he did. And now we can rejoice that there are 400 more pedophile men in jail, then. Right!


They did send the information on those raping priests to the police…right? Right?


Jesus must wonder when his followers became such crashing morons

October 21, 2013

Christian anti-gay hate leader and former pastor, Peter LaBarbera, aided and abetted by Rick Scarborough, wants to launch a class action lawsuit against — wait for it — homosexuality.

Check out this article: Tea party leader proposes ‘class action lawsuit’ against ‘homosexuality’

And LaBarbera has “always wanted” to see a high school kid get AIDS, so his guidance counsellor could be sued:

“Yeah I think that’s great,” LaBarbera agreed. “I would love to see it. We always wanted to see one of the kid in high school who was counseled by the official school counselor to just be gay, then he comes down with HIV. But we never really got the client for that.”

Such godly, loving, Christian people, these are.

And launching a class action lawsuit against “homosexuality” is like launching a lawsuit against, I don’t know, the gene for blue eyes. Or the general preference for fish over beef. Or the existence of a preference for rock music over classical.

Who the hell would you sue for this?? God??

A class. action. lawsuit.

I don’t — I can’t even —

Peter LaBarbera, AKA Mr. Intelligent

Peter LaBarbera, AKA Mr. Intelligent