Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

In a country where it is highly dangerous to criticise Islam

May 27th, 2015 4:35 pm | By

From Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) supports the launch of the online cartoon magazine Black and White: Strokes of Resistance (B&W) by the Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and hails his campaign for the release of the jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, which is highlighted in the first issue.

In January this year, Trivedi announced he planned to launch a magazine of cartoons in tribute to Charlie Hebdo. His first campaign is in support of Badawi…

What a good project.

Trivedi is waging his fight for freedom of expression and information in a country where it is highly dangerous to criticise Islam. The subject of religion remains sensitive for journalists and bloggers.Some religious groups come out with threats and aggressive condemnations, which their members then attempt to carry out arbitrarily while the authorities turn a blind eye.

The number of journalists killed has declined considerably, but self-censorship and the prevailing climate of insecurity and impunity are a cause for concern. The launch of Black & White is a breath of hope and a message to all enemies of freedom, which must be passed on.

After a break of two years, Trivedi resumed cartooning in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, in the belief that the attack made his art more powerful.

My aim is to use cartooning as a tool of activism,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “Through B&W, I want to campaign for the issues related to free speech, justice, equality and other human rights through my art.

That’s a truly outstanding idea.

In the first issue, I’m highlighting the case of Raif Badawi. I’ve published the first 25 cartoons from ’A Cartoon Against Every Lash’, a series of 50 cartoons in support of Raif. I see Raif as a new symbol of free speech, facing a lot of torture and injustice for his freedom of expression.

He is a real crusader, as he is fighting in the hardest circumstances. And it’s our responsibility to help him in this fight of freedom. We couldn’t do anything to save the victims of Charlie Hebdo attack. But we can help Raif, surviving through the injustice.

Reporters Without Borders launched a petition for Badawi’s release that was handed in to the Saudi embassy in Paris on 15 January. So far it has gathered more than 45,000 signatures. RSF has also organized a series of pro-Badawi demonstrations outside the Saudi embassy in Paris since January.

Click here to see the first issue of Black and White:

Click here to visit Aseem Trivedi’s website:

Thank you Reporters Without Borders and thank you Aseem Trivedi.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Senior catholic figures have gathered to discuss family issues

May 27th, 2015 12:05 pm | By

Another cardinal shares his wisdom with us.

A leading Vatican cardinal has given an interview in which he says parents should not allow their children to have contact with gay people who engage in ‘wrong, evil’ and ‘intrinsically disordered’ relationships.

This is how religion fucks people up. They obsess over completely wrong, empty, arbitrary, meaningless categories of “wrong” while ignoring or protecting or promoting actual harms. There just isn’t anything “wrong” or “evil” or “intrinsically disordered” about same-sex relationships. There just isn’t. There never has been. It’s a made-up thing.

Also? I know I’ve said this a million times – but the cardinal is a high-up in an organization that has been protecting people who rape children for many decades – probably its entire history, in fact.

It also has a recent history of stealing unmarried women’s babies to sell, and lying to the women about what happened to those babies. There’s “evil” if you like.

Cardinal Raymond Burke’s comments come during Pope Francis’ Synod of the Family in Rome, in which senior catholic figures have gathered from around the world to discuss family issues, including same-sex marriage.

Why? What business is it of theirs? What do they know about it?

Now, Burke – the former Archbishop of St Louis who now has the title of Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – has indicated that he feels children should be kept away from gay couples.

Playing the role of ecclesiastical agony uncle, Burke was asked by the website LifeSiteNews, ‘How should Catholic parents deal with a difficult situation like this? When planning a Christmas family gathering with grandchildren present, parents are asked by their son, who is in a homosexual relationship, if he can come and bring home with him his homosexual partner.’

‘This is a very delicate question, made more delicate by the aggressiveness of the homosexual agenda,’ replied Burke.

Ah yes, so unlike the mild timidity of the Catholic agenda. All the Catholic church wants is to tell everyone to obey its stupid arbitrary life-hating rules.

‘If homosexual relationships are intrinsically disordered, which indeed they are … then what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?

‘If it were another kind of relationship – something that was profoundly disordered and harmful – we wouldn’t expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it.

Stupid, ignorant, empty-of-meaning garbage.

‘And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.’

Even worse. Bordering on genocidal. The stuff he says is evil, not the people he says it about or their relationships or their sexual activities.

He might be a decent human being if he weren’t a Catholic cardinal.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Biblical principles

May 27th, 2015 11:28 am | By

Vyckie was on CNN last night, so now more people know something about Quiverfull.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s that simple

May 27th, 2015 11:11 am | By

Jesus and Mo on kicking the hornets’ nest.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A beautiful example, an example to follow

May 27th, 2015 10:47 am | By

Mick Hartley shares the Times’s reporting on Tom Holland’s talk at the Hay Festival on Tuesday:

Historian Tom Holland gave the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival yesterday. From the Times (£):

The taboo of not speaking about the prophet Muhammad has to be broken to deradicalise jihadists, an acclaimed author, historian and film-maker said yesterday.

Tom Holland, who produced Islam: the Untold Story for Channel 4, said that the “moral perfection” of Muhammad had to be questioned and that to do so required non-Muslims to break the “unspoken blasphemy taboo that has taken hold in the West”.

Holland, who was giving the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture at the Hay Festival, said that in the past 30 years the “one thing that people seem to have learnt is that to question the moral perfection of Muhammad is akin to poking a hornets’ nest with a stick”.

Muslims seem to take more offence at insults to Muhammad than at insults directed at God, he said.

Holland said that this silence from non-Muslims allowed Islamic State to draw inspiration from the Prophet’s example, despite Muhammad’s actions remaining largely unexamined.

It’s a very very dangerous idea – possibly the worst idea humans could collectively have. It short-circuits careful thinking about ethical issues, and that’s the very thing we must not do.

He added that the “sanction for what they do is within the various biographies and traditions associated with the Prophet . . . when beheading an infidel seems to have been enshrined within what every jihadi aspires to do, it is surely not irrelevant that Muhammad owned a sword that can be translated as the ‘cleaver of vertebrae’.

“Not examining these claims [about Muhammad] leaves free those who want to put the most hostile spin on it. Jihadists cannot possibly be deradicalised unless the prophet is deradicalised as well,” he said.

Holland said that it was dangerous of politicians to argue that atrocities committed by Muslims were nothing to do with Islam. He said the British government’s deradicalisation policy was based on this. “Jihadists see themselves as models of righteous behaviour doing God’s will. They see themselves as following the example of Muhammad,” he said. “The Koran is absolutely explicit about this, ‘In the messenger of God you have a beautiful example, an example to follow’.”

It’s almost as if “the messenger of God” wrote those words himself…

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Alirou reached out and touched his father on the ground

May 27th, 2015 10:11 am | By

The Sunday Times (South Africa) tells of how Boko Haram is making life hell for the people it doesn’t murder.

In a makeshift hut sheltered from a stinging desert wind, Adama Issaika holds her infant daughter close. Three months ago, she stood helpless as gunmen from the Islamist group Boko Haram lined up her husband and relatives against a mosque and shot them dead.

“My littlest boy, Alirou, reached out and touched his father on the ground,” she recalled.

One of thousands of Nigerians who piled into crude canoes to escape across Lake Chad to neighboring Chad, Issaika is caught in West Africa’s vice of anguish.

That’s how.

Destitute in the best of times, Chad has been inundated by Nigerians escaping Boko Haram as well as economically strangled by the results of the group’s actions. The United Nations estimates that at least 500,000 people face severe malnutrition because of reduced trade with Nigeria.

And that’s how.

Sylvestre Bebang, district medical officer in Mao, about an hour from the lake, stood in searing heat one recent day and assessed the situation. He said 90% of the province’s reserve food stocks had been depleted in the first quarter of the year and he and his colleagues are now forced to turn away mothers with their children.

“We estimated that 229 children will need treatment for malnutrition each month,” Bebang said. “In April, we screened more than 1,000 children.”

And that.

A walk through the Saturday market in the town of Baga Sola produced other examples of hardship. Zari Gayi said she is now forced to sell a handful of tomatoes, onions and mangos to support her four children because her husband, who used to operate a ferry on the lake, is out of work. On a good day, she pulls in the equivalent of $5.

When Issaika, whose husband was killed, lived in Tounbounyashi, a small Nigerian coastal village near Baga, life was relatively good. She sold fabric while her husband fished and the family lived reasonably comfortably off rice, chicken, yams and fish.

She said that in February, when Boko Haram militants rounded up the community and demanded Baga’s chief be handed over, she hid her eldest daughter, 15-year-old Samsia.

“I heard stories of them taking teenage girls,” she said cradling her youngest girl, Yati, 18 months old.

As wild, dusty wind rocked her shack, Issaika recounted how Boko Haram militants threatened to “slaughter you all as punishment for fleeing Baga.” She added, “People were very scared, one man begged and joined Boko Haram and he was not killed.”

It’s like a plague or a massive earthquake, only worse, because there’s human malevolence behind it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Thou art forbidden

May 27th, 2015 9:34 am | By

Bangladesh has banned an Islamist group.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said Monday that the Ansarullah Bangla Team had been banned in response to a request by the police because it has threatened and killed bloggers, writers and activists. Junior Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the decision was warranted under Bangladesh’s antiterrorism law. Since February, three bloggers who criticized radical Islam have been killed, including Avijit Roy,42, an American citizen of Bangladeshi origin.

And as the horse disappears over the horizon, the blot on the barn door slides firmly home.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When the shoe pincheth

May 27th, 2015 8:53 am | By

The Vatican’s “secretary of state” is sad about the Irish vote.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin says the church needs to do a better job of forcing its warped and antiquated views on every human being.

“The Church must take account of this reality, but in the sense of reinforcing its commitment to evangelization,” he said.

“I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.

“The family remains at the centre and we have to do everything to defend it and promote it.”

Where to begin.

This “family” bullshit is very modern; the Catholic church has certainly not put “the family” at the center throughout its history; on the contrary. “It is better to marry than to burn” is not what you’d call a hearty endorsement of family life.

And then, if the family is so very central, why is the entirety of the core church hierarchy officially anti-family? Mandatory celibacy also is not a robust endorsement of family life.

And then, equal marriage promotes families and family life, it doesn’t dent or destroy them.

In Italy, the government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is preparing to present legislation that would allow civil unions between gay couples.

The Irish referendum has also boosted calls in Germany, which allow same-sex civil unions, to go further and legalise same-sex marriage.

Pressure has started to grow in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which opposes any change.

“One would think that what the Catholic Irish can do, we can do too,” CDU parliamentarian Jens Spahn told the German Die Welt newspaper.

Suck it up, Cardinal Parolin.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: The tribal apologetics

May 26th, 2015 5:24 pm | By

Guest post by Bruce Gorton.

There are relatively few things which anger me more than child abuse.

When I read about Josh Duggar’s abuse of his own sisters, my blood ran cold.

When I read Christians defending it, by saying he was “playing doctor” with his sisters, my blood ran colder.

When I read Christians commenting about how atheists are full of hate, and have nothing but spite for Christians in response to it, my blood stopped running.

It had turned to ice.

Let me be clear here, I am not disgusted because Josh Duggar is a Christian; I am disgusted because he molested his own sisters.

And fourteen is old enough to know better.

I am disgusted because of the tribal apologetics trying to defend his actions at the expense of his sisters.

And they are tribal apologetics, had Josh been named Mohammed there would be no such talk of playing “doctor.”

There is a deep double standard there, wherein it suddenly becomes something other than child abuse the second it becomes your tribe.

That is the thing I most despise about conservatives in general – the idea that the evils of others are harmless in ourselves.

That is why I cannot side with people who try to minimise sexual harassment within atheism, why I cannot side with the US on torture, why I could not side with Richard Dawkins’ statements on pedophilia, why I consider myself neither multi nor mono-cultural.

I am anti-culture, because I do not believe that tribal allegiance matters one whit, what matters is not my culture or even my ideas, but our humanity.

There are some things we should hate, and Christians who would sacrifice their own children to their cultural identity are squarely in that bracket.

And I do not say this because I am an atheist; I say this because I was abused by one of my siblings growing up.

It was not sexual abuse, it is true, it was a sustained campaign of violence and intimidation.

But it was abuse, and I will not excuse those who look the other way because they want to feel forgiving of the pains inflicted on others.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sermons on the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman

May 26th, 2015 5:01 pm | By

Samantha Field at Defeating the Dragons explains how Josh Duggar is getting away with it.

The biggest reason why Josh will get away with sexually assaulting five girls is purity culture. If you’re a regular reader that connection should be apparent right now, as I’ve frequently talked about how my belief in “purity”kept me from talking about my rape for years.

Everything about this situation was not just mishandled, it was covered up. On purpose. That makes any mandatory reporter that knew about this a criminal (at the minimum, the church leadership and the original police officer, who did not file a report), and it makes Jim Bob and Michelle, in the words of Jesus, hypocrites and vipers. White-washed tombs, full of dead men’s bones and rotting corpses.

However, Jim Bob and Michelle and the church leadership and the police were able to cover this up because of the culture his victims belong to. They have been taught since they extremely young that women are capable of tempting the most holy man to sin, that women can provoke men into raping them, that if something bad happened they must always look for their part in the blame.

They’re the perps, not Josh Duggar. Simply having a female body makes them perpetrators of sexual abuse. Slutty women destroy good Christian men by Tempting them (or in Duggarspeak by “defrauding” them). The only thing women are good for is spawning children.

That is the only framework that Josh’s victims had to process their assaults. Like me, they were forced by the only things they knew to evaluate how they could be responsible for what Josh did to them. It was their responsibility to repent of “immodesty” or any “sensuousness” they may have displayed, however innocently. Then, because they contributed to their own assault, they don’t have the ability to pursue justice. They were duty-bound to “forgive” their abuser because, after all, it was their fault, too.

If his victims were to come forward, to make police reports within the limited three-year window they had to get justice, they would have been dragged through a nightmare the likes of which we can’t even begin to imagine. It is extremely likely that every single last person they knew– their family, their church– would have turned their backs and rejected them. They would hear sermons preached about them about the “spirit of bitterness” and how it can destroy a young woman. They would have been sternly reminded that Christians handle problems among themselves and don’t involve the courts.

“Bitterness” – why is that such a popular insult for women? Atheists use it just as much as fanatical Christians – it’s a favorite trope that feminists are all “bitter” because they’re so ugly and witch-like. Do people have women confused with sugar? Do they think it’s our job to be constantly and permanently sweet?

Purity culture silences victims, Field concludes.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The news was out there

May 26th, 2015 4:38 pm | By

Vyckie does tv news to explain about the Duggars.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

That the Duggars are liberal and worldly

May 26th, 2015 4:24 pm | By

And yet, there are people even more horrible than the Duggars – people who consider the Duggars “liberal.” Ahahahahahahaha I know, I know. Suzanne Calulu writes about some at Vyckie’s blog.

by Zsuzanna Anderson from her blog Are They All Yours? – My Thoughts on the Duggars

Editor’s note: Zsu’s solution? Kill all pedophiles. No therapy, no prison time, just execute them. What would Jesus say about that? Zsuzsanna’s husband is Pastor Steven L. Anderson, you know, that nice man that called for all homosexuals to be killed last year so that AIDS would be wiped out.

We have for years held and publicly stated that the Duggars are liberal and worldly, even as they are known for being “fundamentalists”. Maybe their beliefs are, but what they are publicly willing to take a stand for is weak and anemic. Example: Never answering whether or not they spank their children, which they obviously did, while telling the world over and over again about their positive approach of praising good behavior. Deceptive at best.

Oh those wicked liberals, pretending they don’t spank their children. Whereas I, wicked liberal that I am, think the problem is that the Duggars hide how awful they are – not that they hide how godly and righteous they are.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

As if the light in the room was slowly being extinguished

May 26th, 2015 11:56 am | By

Teresa MacBain is finding the reporting on Josh Duggar harrowing; it resonates with her experience as a pastor.

I couldn’t shake the deep sorrow that I felt (and feel) for his victims, and the outrage at the way some Christians are ignoring the victims and excusing Duggar’s behavior. Five precious children fell victim to abuse, yet very few are speaking up for them. This is why I can’t remain silent.

It’s really quite astonishing how thoroughly the victims are being ignored and indeed negated by the Christian fans of the Duggars.

Teresa has one pastoral experience burned into her memory:

I received a call from an elderly parishioner one summer day many years ago. She asked me to come by for a visit, which happened often. I’d spent many hours at her home over the years and didn’t think anything of her invitation. .As I walked into her home, I could sense that something wasn’t quite right. Her usual cheerful, bright demeanor was replaced with deep sadness and grief. It felt as if the light in the room was slowly being extinguished. There, in her living room, she opened her mouth to speak, but tears began to stream down her face instead. Once she composed herself,  she told me about her recent discovery that her 6-year-old granddaughter had been sexually molested by her 13-year-old cousin. Pastors are taught to remaining calm and in control, but that ‘skill’ couldn’t keep me from weeping as I sat with this broken-hearted grandmother. I was horrified then and I’m horrified now.

Sorrow is the right response; sorrow for the people harmed; not sanctimonious joy at the redemption of the perpetrator.

This isn’t a lemons into lemonade situation.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Your neighbors who buy Pottery Barn furniture

May 26th, 2015 11:31 am | By

Katha Pollitt asks why reproductive rights are losing while gay rights are winning.

Indiana’s attempt to enshrine opposition to gay marriage under the guise of religious freedom provoked an immediate nationwide backlash. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed religious employers to refuse insurance coverage for birth control—not abortion, birth control—to female employees; new laws are forcing abortion clinics to close; and absurd, even medically dangerous restrictions are heaping up in state after state. Except when the media highlight a particularly crazy claim by a Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, where’s the national outrage?

You could ask the same question about Ireland (and some people did and do). The result of the referendum was amazing, but why are reproductive rights so far behind?

Marriage equality is about love, romance, commitment, settling down, starting a family. People love love! But marriage equality is also about tying love to family values, expanding a conservative institution that has already lost most of its coercive social power and become optional for millions. (Marriage equality thus follows Pollitt’s law: Outsiders get access when something becomes less valued, which is why women can be art historians and African-Americans win poetry prizes.) Far from posing a threat to marriage, as religious opponents claim, permitting gays to marry gives the institution a much-needed update, even as it presents LGBT people as no threat to the status quo: Instead of promiscuous child molesters and lonely gym teachers, gays and lesbians are your neighbors who buy Pottery Barn furniture and like to barbecue.

It’s true. Taslima and I had a little conversation about that on Twitter on Saturday. I think it’s complicated, and that same-sex marriage can undercut the patriarchal quality of marriage, but still…marriage itself isn’t a radical institution.

Reproductive rights, by contrast, is about sex—sexual freedom, the opposite of marriage—in all its messy, feckless glory. It replaces the image of women as chaste, self-sacrificing mothers dependent on men with that of women as independent, sexual, and maybe not so self-sacrificing. It doesn’t matter that contraception is indispensable to modern life, that abortion antedates the sexual revolution by thousands of years, that plenty of women who have abortions are married, or that most (60 percent) who have abortions are already mothers. Birth control and abortion allow women—and, to a lesser extent, men—to have sex without punishment, a.k.a. responsibility.

I think the real crux though is that marriage equality doesn’t conjure up an (imagined) personal victim. With marriage equality you get marriage; with abortion you get an imagined “pre-born child.” Katha puts it this way:

In marriage equality, there is no loser. But many, including some who call themselves pro-choice, feel that abortion creates a loser: the embryo or fetus. You have to value women a lot to side with the pregnant woman, with all her inevitable complexities and flaws, over the pure potentiality of the future baby.

Aaaaaaaaaaand…most people don’t.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Everyone apparently thinks it’s cute and quaint and wholesome

May 26th, 2015 11:17 am | By

Originally a comment by Anna Y on The good Christian family aura.

That last quote is so mind-bogglingly blind I just can’t find the words…

Yes, Josh Duggar abused his sisters (and, according to other sources, also other girl(s) he wasn’t related to). This came to light just now and all of internet is in an uproar. The fact that the entire 19-and-counting show is basically a documentary about the non-stop, 24-7 abuse of every one of those 19 kids apparently doesn’t seem to penetrate anyone’s consciousness. No, I’m not implying that all 19 kids are/were being diddled — there are other kinds of abuse. Being stuck in a panopticon (as a bonus, this particular one is even televised) and raised to conform with a warped standard of Godliness(tm) that is completely unrelated (and mostly contrary) to what’s known about how a young individual of species Homo Sapiens grows and develops (both physically and mentally) is abuse.

I’m not going to pull a Dawkins and rank which abuse is worse here, but I’m willing to bet this kind is pretty horrific too. I guess some people are naturally creeped out by how chipper and perky the Duggar kids are, but apparently no one (or not enough people, not vocally enough) is asking what’s being done to them to make them act this way — after all, that’s not how normal kids normally act.

From infancy they are being put into a virtual pressure-cooker where they are “trained” not only to do as they are told but to do it with a smile and their compliance is evaluated through constant surveillance from both parents and siblings. This family’s response to any “sinful” thoughts and actions as well as a recipe for keeping those at bay is hard work and ignorance and prayer (and all manner of Christian ideological indoctrination that doesn’t quite fit under the label of prayer). It’s basically a police state in miniature.

If some scientists decided to take some babies and experiment on them to see if they could create a “successful” 1984 scenario, they would be branded as monsters. But when it’s parents who are birthing themselves some babies to turn into their idea of model Christians everyone apparently thinks it’s cute and quaint and wholesome and there’s even a TV show about it. Wow.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Whited sepulcher

May 26th, 2015 9:24 am | By

More stupid shit from someone whose thinking has been completely warped and emptied-out by years upon decades of Christian fanaticism. This someone is called Michael Brown (yes there’s an irony) and he shares his stupid shit with us via the Christian Post.

I have no desire to pile on with more comments about Josh Duggar, who appears to be a very serious and committed Christian who has made no excuses for the sins of his youth and who deeply desires to make a positive impact for the Lord in the years ahead. I simply want to share some redemptive thoughts, supplementing some of the excellent statements made by others, including former governor Mike Huckabee and Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore.

It’s not about “sins.” That’s warped. It warps the conversation and the thinking away from the harm done to human beings to focus instead on putative crimes against God. Notice that Brown doesn’t even mention harm done to human beings in that opening. He doesn’t get to it after that, either – he goes right on ignoring it to talk about other things: things that are less important or illusory or both. His thinking is warped and impoverished by his religious fanaticism. That’s one of the hallmarks of religious fanaticism: it focuses on completely irrelevant and imaginary issues at the expense of real issues that affect real humans.

1. Jesus really does change people. While critics of the Duggar family want to indict them (along with other, evangelical Christians, especially those with large families) for Josh’s actions, and while many seem ready to throw Josh under the bus, the fact is that while he did sin grievously, through repentance, faith and counseling, he became a new man. Jesus really does transform sinners.

That’s not the issue. That’s not the point. It’s not all about Josh; it’s not about Josh first and everyone else later, much less Josh first and everyone else never. It’s not a morality play about Josh’s redemption. That focus is all wrong.

2. There’s no excuse for sin, so own up to it. In today’s culture, almost no one is guilty of anything. It’s someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility, not our own. We’re all victims, and the reason we do bad things is because someone else wronged us. Isn’t that how we think today?

I’ve even heard athletes apologize for some really heinous actions by saying, “I’m not happy with the way things happened,” rather than saying, “What I did was wrong and I have no excuses. Please forgive me. I’m seeking to get to the root of my problems and address them.”

What a vast difference between the two attitudes.

As Proverbs states, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

Wait a minute. Josh Duggar – and his parents – did conceal his “transgressions.” They did conceal them, and by concealing them, were enabled to be tv stars and make lots of money to buy long skirts for all those daughters, and to spread the gospel of fanatical Christian patriarchy.

Michael Brown should cut the bullshit. The Duggars didn’t “own up to” anything until the secret was revealed by others. They don’t get credit for that.

I agree with him about football players weasel-wording their statements about things like punching women in the head. I’ve written about that, in Free Inquiry as well as here. He’s right about that part. But he’s not right that the Duggars are doing anything very different – or even that he is. He’s well into his piece and has yet to mention the people Josh Duggar harmed.

According to the accounts we’ve all heard, Josh confessed his sin to his parents as well as to the proper authorities, and as a family, they worked through the issues. Now, half a lifetime later (he’s 27 and is married with four children), when confronted with a police report about his past, he did not minimize his sin nor did he excuse it. He also resigned from the fine Christian organization for whom he worked, not wanting to bring any negative attention to their work.

Holy crap – what happened to “thou shalt not bear false witness”? Josh did not confess his sins crimes to the proper authorities. Nobody confessed anything to the proper authorities until after the statute of limitations had safely expired.

And “working through the issues” is beside the point. Again – still no mention of the people he harmed. Not even a spelling out of what he actually did. Brown is being at least as evasive and dishonest as those bullshitting football players.

As for resigning from the “fine” homophobic Christian organization he worked for – he wasn’t so forthright and responsible and blame-shouldering that he decided not to work for them in the first place, was he. Consider me not impressed that he resigned when his secret was blown.

When I see someone respond like this, I am filled with hope. In fact, over the years, I’ve seen that people who committed uglier sins but took full responsibility and repented did far better than those who committed less serious sins and tried to sweep them under the rug.

Great. Have a party. Good that you’re happy. Meanwhile, the girls Josh Duggar sexually molested…oh well, who cares about them. They must be sluts.

4. Josh can be an ambassador on behalf of the abused, even helping the abusers as well. While it can feel like your life is over when your past, largely private sins become public (how many of us would like for that to happen?), the fact is that Josh’s future can be bright in the Lord.

He can be an ambassador on behalf of the abused? Wtf? How? Why? Using what diplomatic credentials?

Why the hell would anyone who has been sexually abused want Josh Duggar as an “ambassador”? He has yet to show the slightest awareness that sexual abuse is bad for the abused.

He can call on others who are sinning to come clean and get help, using his own example redemptively. And he can encourage those who have been abused to realize that they are not guilty and should not feel shame, also encouraging churches to embrace those who come for help rather than making them feel as if there is something wrong with them.

No he can’t. He and his family believe the abused are guilty, so no, he’s the last person who can do any of that.

There are eight more paragraphs after that, in which he still does not mention the people Josh Duggar sexually molested. He does not mention them once in the whole article.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“If abused was not at fault”

May 25th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

A year ago Recovering Grace took an extensive look at the kind of “teaching” the Duggar children had about sexual abuse of children within a family. It’s enough to make your hair stand on end so hard it dances. “There is no victim,” the title states dryly.

Today, Recovering Grace looks at past Advanced Training Institute (ATI) and Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) materials that address the topics of sexual abuse, child molestation within a nuclear family, and domestic violence. This is not presented as an exhaustive survey, but is the full range of printed Institute material on these topics thatRecovering Grace is aware of and has in our current library. We desire to present an accurate representation of Institute materials on these topics, so please share with us any materials we may have missed.

This is a year ago, so it wasn’t about Josh Duggar in particular. I recommend reading and studying the whole thing; it’s horrific.


The husband in that scenario is doing his wife a favor by being hostile to her. The more horrible you are to people, the more of a favor you’re doing them.

The Our Most Important Messages booklet was written for Basic Seminar alumni, and takes us into the Institute’s teachings on authority structures and the “umbrella of authority,” topics on which many words have been spilled over the past fifty years. The former ATI students who have shared their stories with Recovering Grace after facing sexual harassment, abuse, or assault in a family or Institute setting, or at the hands of outside authority figures, have almost universally cited the role of the Institute’s authority teachings in initial personal confusion about the abusive experience, and in later attempts to deal with the experience’s aftermath. While we cannot do this topic justice in a short space, a chart in the Basic Seminar Followup Course booklet How To Get Under God’s Protection: The Principle of Authority illustrates the complex position of the hypothetical mother in the Q&A above. The generic chart does not address sexual abuse specifically, but is the foundation upon which the authority language of Our Most Important Messages is based. Should the hypothetical mother in Our Most Important Messages “flee if forced to do evil,” the evil in this case being the possible repeat of sexual abuse of her children? Should she separate from her husband despite possible financial hardships, and thus “suffer for refusing to do evil”? No, she is admonished to “appeal to the authorities,” and instructed how to work her way up through levels of authority, neither leaving with her children nor going first to law enforcement.

Then there’s the Umbrella of Protection.

If identifying the correct authority interaction scenario is challenging for adults, it is even murkier for sexually abused minors. The same HowTo Get Under God’s Protection booklet gives a succinct introduction to the “umbrella of protection,” arguably the Institute’s most widely disseminated and enduring meme. Central to the concept is the fact that under the umbrella, “nothing can happen to us that God did not design for his glory and our ultimate good,” while out from under the umbrella, “we expose ourselves to the realm and power of Satan’s control.”

    Basic Seminar Followup Course     How To Get Under God's Protection: The Principle of Authority, page 4

But what if “His” glory and my ultimate good are in conflict? I know, we’re supposed to think that’s impossible, but…I’m not convinced it is.

What about moral failures in a family? It turns out those are about little girls running around naked after their baths, and girl babies having their diapers changed. They’re all immodest little whores, is what they are.



That’s all clear enough, I think. This guy had to change his infant sisters’ diapers, so of course he ended up sexually abusing them. The harlots tempted him.

Here’s a sciencey part, that diagrams the parts of the person:


I get it. Body is least important, and hurting the unimportant body—>good things for The Spirit – so, again, the abuser is doing the abused a big favor. Thank you, abuser.

Why did God let it happen? Because she wore immodest dress, thus defrauding her abuser or abusers. It’s her fault. She ruined his life, or their lives. Women are baaaaaaaaaaaaad.

There’s a lot more.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: A cultural resonance that echoes across continents

May 25th, 2015 11:49 am | By

Originally a comment by mudpuddles on Stones.

Sites and symbols of heritage and history are vitally important to the sense of place and identity of any given population. Apart from the aesthetic and visually symbolic totems of “I am in X place right now”, these ruins represent a common heritage and a history – of growth, of community, of development, of art, of learning, of spirituality, of trade and internationalism, of war and struggle, and of peace and prosperity – which people of many nationalities, religions and ethnicities can claim ownership of. These sites represent elements of a shared identity, and have a cultural resonance and relevance that echoes across continents. These psychological and cultural connections between people and place are absolutely fundamental to how people view their place in the world, and how they define themselves. They say “This is where I am from. Not just this place, but this history, this culture, this dimension of humanity.” That is why IS wants to wipe these sites out.

They want to erase any vestige of a prior identity for the places and populations they want to conquer. They want to make it impossible for people who flee the IS advance to return to a psychological and cultural space they knew as home. IS has no true history, no heritage, no learning, no community, no art, no true culture to offer, and that’s how it wants the rest of the world to be. Wiping out someone’s heritage is a key part of robbing them of their identity. It makes people easier to demoralise, alienate and assimilate. It also removes symbols of shared heritage that might serve to bind communities together in resistance. We have already heard tales of some people deciding to join IS because after they lost their homes and neighbours and businesses and felt trapped…. “there is nothing left for me, so I decided why not join IS now, there is nothing else.” Removing potent symbols of sense of place and belonging helps them intensify that impact.

The concern is not simply about stones in a desert. Its about a direct and twisted assault on the psyche of civilians that will have an irreversible and damaging impact, and that will make fundamentalism easier to embed.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To watch an old Disney movie

May 25th, 2015 11:36 am | By

How not to run a school event:

One hundred public school students were left upset and crying during school hours as they were ushered into a dark auditorium to watch an old Disney movie as 900 classmates enjoyed popcorn, ice cream, and bouncy castles at a Carnival outside. New York Public School 120 in Queens held their annual Carnival on Friday. However, instead of all of the pre-k through fifth grade students enjoying the fun-filled day, 100 children were left crying in an auditorium after their families were unable to pay for the $10 ticket to the affair.

An auditorium? How luxurious. Couldn’t the school have found a smelly locker-room to put them in?

The New York Post reports that almost all of the 100 children excluded from the event were [children of] Chinese immigrants who are simply struggling to “keep their heads above water.” Teachers charged with monitoring the unfortunate children stuck in the dark auditorium say that some of the children were crying hysterically as they could hear the laughter from the children outside. Some students asked, “are we being punished,” not understanding why the other children were eating candy and enjoying the inflatables while they were stuck inside.

So this is an elementary school run by people who have no idea what children are like and how they feel? People who were placed in medical comas for the duration of their own childhoods?

At least one teacher says she doesn’t feel it was appropriate to have a Carnival on school grounds during school hours if all students were not able to attend. The teacher says that to add insult to injury for the small children unable to pay the $10 fee, the school Principal, Joan Monroe, sent a bag of little stuffed animals to the classroom to pass out to all the students who paid.

Uh oh. I hope Joan Monroe doesn’t have a Twitter account, because if she does, I predict bad things.

Teachers say they were given lists of the students who had paid and who had not, reminding them to take the unpaid students to the auditorium instead of the Carnival. To ensure the rules were followed, Monroe announced that students without a ticket would report to the auditorium over the loudspeakers in the school the morning of the event.

Just not the way to do it. Mean. Don’t be mean to elementary school children.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The good Christian family aura

May 25th, 2015 11:15 am | By

From Libby Anne’s first post on the Duggar mess: some important points.

8. The good Christian family aura can hide underlying problems. If I had a dollar for every time someone has praised the Duggars for being a perfect example of a good Christian family, I’d be rich. Sweet smiles and matching clothes can cover up a lot and make people assume that things are more perfect than they are. I know what it’s like to force a smile for family pictures people later ooo and ahh over, even as I’m crying inside. We need to remember that.

I’ve experienced that deception the few times I’ve taken a brief look at that show. On the one hand they make my flesh crawl, but on the other hand I keep thinking: “They do look very cheerful and happy and perky.” The sweet smiles are annoyingly effective.

9. Sheltering children from the world doesn’t work. For years now, I have seen commenters across the internet praise the Duggars for raising godly children away from the materialism and sexualization of the modern world. Sorry guys, it doesn’t work like that. Please stop promoting the Duggars’ lifestyle by claiming that it has protected these children from the evils of the world! It hasn’t.

Mind you, if you define secular education as an evil, it has protected them from that…

10. Homeschooling can limit children’s ability to report abuse. Children who attend school have contact with teachers, counselors, and other adults they can go to for help, or for advice about problems in their home situations. Both Josh and his victims were homeschooled, which almost certainly limited the number of trusted adults they could go to for help, especially given that their social activities appear to have revolved around their church and other likeminded families who probably also believed in dealing with such problems in-house. According to the police report, some of the victims did try to get help. It’s just that their avenues for obtaining said help were sadly limited.

And their welfare wasn’t a high priority.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)