Category Archives: Atheism

My life in an ACE school

This post by Ian is cross-posted from Bruce Gerencser’s excellent blog, The Way Forward. It’s the first two parts of a series. I’ll be reposting them all here eventually, but if you’re impatient you can read up to part 5 over there. If you’re an ex-ACE student, you’ll also enjoy the discussions happening in the comments over there.

ACE Bible Mind Control

My ACE Experience, Part 1

I am writing a several part series on my ACE school experience. I attended three different ACE schools and was associated with a fourth, so I feel I have had a pretty varied experience with them.

This is my story as I remember it. I had good and bad times, as did anyone attending any type of school. Am I a better or worse person for having an ACE education? I don’t know. I truly believe I did as well as I did because my parents were heavily involved in my schooling, both public and private.

As I tell my story, I will write about the bad things I did. This is not to brag, it is to be as honest as possible.

This has been quite the journey down memory lane, going back over 30 years.  For people who have shared my experience, this will bring back memories. For those who have never attended an ACE school, it my be quite an eye opener.

I hope you enjoy what I have written.

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To New Bethany and back: One woman’s journey to report the man she says sexually abused her

After years of frustrated attempts, of being ignored by the press, dismissed by law enforcement, and disbelieved by the adults that should have protected them, the heroic women of New Bethany have finally achieved a breakthrough. This week, Louisiana’s Times-Picayune is serialising the story of their journey back to New Bethany to report Mack Ford, New Bethany’s preacher-owner,  for rape.

This story should not have been necessary. The reason it became necessary is because of negligence.

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Your sins will find you out

Big news! I’ve just been announced as a speaker at this year’s QED conference in Manchester. I’ll be on a panel with Nate Phelps, son of Fred Phelps, the infamous Westboro Baptist Church leader, and Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association. More info on the panel here, and get your tickets here.

Now, today’s post:

ACE has tirelessly campaigned since its inception that its schools should not require state licences or qualified teachers. By 1993, it has been in more than 150 lawsuits. Today’s guest post is from JP, whose post shows what a school can be like when it’s totally unregulated. It’s the opposite of the rigid discipline I remember from my ACE days, but a whole other world of horrible. Read on to learn what happens when you use an ACE school as a place to sleep off a hangover…

After 8th grade my anxiety disorder had made itself apparent. I was thrown into the grips of not one, but two mental illnesses. I hated my life and was scared of everything. My situation got bad enough that it prevented me from attending public high school. My parents, unknowing about ACE, found New Haven Christian Academy. My dad explained to me what the school was like and took me in for a meeting. It seemed fine at first. I saw the uniforms we had to wear, long skirts and oversized polo shirts with the school emblem on the breast. I was going through a very gothy/emo-y phase at the time so I detested the clothing restrictions, but I was out of options. I began going to this school and everything went fairly well. I was a declared atheist before attending this school, and probably for the wrong reasons considering I decided to be one out of teenage angst and anger at my situation. This school scared me into religion and taught me nothing of value.

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Tax-funded creationism and sexism

So the British Humanist Association has declared war on publicly-funded creationist nurseries in the UK. They’ve identified 67 nurseries of concern, of which nine are using the ACE curriculum. Of course, I first told you this was happening a year ago, so it’s nice to see something happening at last.

In a stupendous feat of good timing, two weeks ago a friend purchased the entire ACE kindergarten curriculum for me, so I can show you where your tax money is going if you live near one of these august institutions. Of course, we knew about the creationism already. What has shocked me (and angered me, since I went to an ACE nursery and I’d forgotten most of this) is the sexism. It turns out the rigid gender roles and wives-submit-to-your-husbands indoctrination that characterises ACE in later years begins when the pupils are aged three.

And in Britain, public funds are being used to pay for this.

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Believe I’m going to hell? You’re either insincere or don’t care. Pick one.

Fundamentalists: you have not been trying very hard to save me. Either you do not really believe I am going to hell, or you do not care. Which is it?

I wasn’t going to post this until next week, but I needed to get it online while the relevant Big Questions episode is still on BBC iPlayer so you can see what I’m talking about.

Liz Weston is a member of Christ Church Southampton. She was on The Big Questions this week to defend fundamental Christianity against the charge that it is harmful to children.

Let me say this first: I like her. She got a lot of bile from Twitter atheists when the episode aired, but I chatted to her after the show and she was genuinely nice. I got the feeling that we could have spoken for a long time and found many areas of common ground. Liz was shocked by my experiences of fundamentalism and expressed genuine regret. She was also far more tolerant than I was in my fundamentalist days. I got the feeling that where we disagreed, we could have done so without it being a source of animosity.

So yes, I think Liz Weston is a good person, and that’s important to remember in light of what I’m about to say.

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There is definitely no such thing as hell

If I’d designed the atheist bus campaign, it would have said:

There is definitely no hell. Now stop bothering me and enjoy your life.”

There is probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Ariane Sherine and Richard Dawkins launch the original atheist bus campaign, 2009. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The doctrine of hell is the cause of about 95% of what’s wrong with fundamentalism. I admit that I do not know whether any gods exist, but I am certain there is no hell. And if everyone would just realise that hell is imaginary, religious conflict would mostly go away.

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Your idea of love is fucked up.

There’s a lot of swearing in this post. That means the people who need to hear this most will ignore me. That’s fine. There will be other posts on other days to engage sympathetically. And at this point, the bridges between me and those I criticise are mostly in flames anyway.

When Reverend Oliver Harrison spoke out against ACE in January, he wrote “I was in my twenties before anyone told me the first and most foundational truth of Christianity: namely, that God is love”. To which AislingNB replied:

‘God is love’ is an underlying basic principle which is often stated in the PACES. Perhaps your experience of ACE was negative because of the people that administered it. Don’t blame the actual curriculum for this.

Then Kara Deacon piled in:

I am an ex-pupil of the school you are criticizing… I don’t quite understand how you can say that you were not taught about the love of God because it was taught in every assembly and it was a huge part of school life.

So who’s telling the truth?

I believe all of them. I’m sure the King’s School, like all ACE schools, talked about love all the time. I’m equally sure that Oliver didn’t learn anything about real love while he was there.

It’s because when ACE talk about love, they mean something different from the rest of us. The trouble is that fundamentalism poisons the meaning of love. Yes, they talk about love all the time, but love is a stick to beat you with.

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How to become an ACE supervisor

A couple of bits of recommended reading for you.

First, a quick one: this very amusing parody from Reddit of Greg Hibbins’ letter.

More importantly: I wrote a post at the Friendly Atheist on what ACE taught me about atheism (Spoiler: “they all seem to be very small people with restrictions around their lives, and antagonism, and obvious dementia. Their vocabulary is so profane that newsmen will no longer interview them on public media. Their vocabulary is simple, restricted, and obnoxious”). In the process, I explained how to become an ACE supervisor. It’s quite revealing. Please check it out.

Leaving fundamentalism: an interview with Jonny Scaramanga

jonnyscaramanga:

I haven’t talked much about my own escape from ACE on this blog (I’m saving it for the book!), but I did an interview about ACE with LotharLorraine yesterday and a lot of it came out. If you want to know why I oppose ACE, there it is.
The interview was done as a Skype chat, so that explains my at times fragmented answers, but I think it’s come out well, especially now Lothar’s removed the horrific photo of me he originally posted with the interview.

Originally posted on lotharlorraine:

In a previous post I pointed out the harmfulness of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), an international fundamentalist “educational” system aiming at producing “godly” children.

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Here I had the immense opportunity to interview Jonny Scaramanga who is campaigning against this abusive and harmful system.

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Lotharson:Hello Jonny, thank you very much for being with us!
Could you please tell a bit about your background for the benefit of my readers?
Jonny Scaramanga: Sure.
I was born into a family that was majorly into the Charismatic Movement and also the Word of Faith “prosperity gospel” of preachers like Kenneth Copeland.
I can’t remember a time in my childhood where I didn’t believe in God. The truth of the Biblical creation story was just one of the facts of my childhood, as true as the colour of the sky.
I was praying in tongues by the time I was 6 or…

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Evolution is a conspiracy!

I’ve chalked up another flawless victory and been published in the New Statesman.

As I write, the article is the top story on the Statesman‘s home page.

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Please share this one. My previous widely-published articles on ACE have been somewhat tabloid in style, all numbered lists and sections in bold. This is an attempt to raise the level of the conversation on the subject. Here’s the link:  http://www.newstatesman.com/2014/01/creationism-and-conspiracy-evolution-inside-uks-evangelical-schools

In a bid to do less blogging and more actual work, I’ve got really behind in sharing links with you, so here’s some more excellent reading if you have time:

Zack Kopplin did a thorough exposé at Slate about ResponsiveEd, the secularised version of ACE that’s currently gaining ground in America. I’ve previously written on that too.

Tyler Stoltzfus, past (and hopefully future) Leaving Fundamentalism guest blogger, wrote more about his life as an atheist at an ACE school for AlterNet.

I did a thing for AlterNet about the propaganda cartoon that lace the ACE curriculum, and how they seem to promote racism, sexism, and the intolerance of non-Christians.

Dana Hunter has started blogging about ACE too. She has purchased the entire 8th grade Earth Science PACE set and is going to review each one in turn. You may have noticed my strategy for 2014 is to get people who aren’t me talking about ACE (anyone who cares knows what I think by now), so this is a very pleasing development.

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