Monthly Archives: January 2013
Guest post: Be careful, or your karma will run over your dogma
I told you I’ve been overrun with good guest posts lately. Here’s the latest, anonymously submitted, survivor story from an ex-Accelerated Christian Education student. Usual thing: depressing reading, but an impressive story of redemption. I’m often struck by how upside-down I had everything when I was a fundamentalist. I thought the only happiness was in fundamentalism. That’s ironic.
Anyway, this is one of my favourite guest posts ever, so please identify yourself, anonymous author! This post successfully sums up all the themes we’ve seen cropping up across the guest posts. And, you’ll note, it’s not written by an atheist. Taking up arms against ACE is not an attack on Christianity. ACE is as antithetical to the message of Christ as it is to reason.
Let me preface this by saying that I am aware that not all A.C.E. schools are run the same way, and each has its own agenda. It is not fair of me to assume the intent of any schools administrators that I have no knowledge of, BUT, I feel a responsibility to speak up if I can prevent a parent from making a disastrous decision in the name of “protecting” their child from the world they will eventually have to live in anyways. The way I see it you can shape and mold a child’s mind to your way of thinking, but if you fail to capture their heart, you have lost them anyways. Parents, if you love your kids, please consider respecting who God made them to be by allowing their lives to develop naturally. Keep your eyes open and don’t give in to fear. Locking you kids in a box of pointless rules will not mold their character, it will crush it. True morality does the right thing even when no one is watching.
I have sooo many regrets in regard to the years I spent at the stifling, mind-numbing, twisted and hypocritical A.C.E. school I was forced to go to, and my parents paid for it,Crazy! Like many others; the ridiculous rules and dogmas damaged my psychosis in ways I am still trying to unravel. It took me years to be able to function in a healthy way in social settings. I can hold my own but, some things that are normal for most do not come naturally for me. I will never experience or comprehend common milestones.
So, the Jonas Brothers were educated using ACE. I knew there was a reason that band sucked so much. Adam Laats has a great blog on fundamentalism, so check it out. I have many thoughts on this, which I’m leaving as a comment below Adam’s piece.
I Love You but You're Going to Hell
I am happy to say I don’t know anything about the Jonas Brothers.
I survive the shame of my ignorance by putting them in a mental category along with Hannah Montana, Barney, and all other noxious pop culture targeted at America’s youth. As far as I am concerned, these are things I do not need to know about.
So imagine my surprise to learn that this pop group has become a leading advocate of school choice. Imagine my surprise to learn that this leading pop group learned about the world and everything in it from their conservative evangelical Protestant homeschool curriculum. It appears the Jonas Brothers have been educated with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, one of the most ferociously conservative Protestant curriculum choices available.
But let’s start at the beginning.
This morning, I came across a story from the libertarian Reason TV. The Jonas Brothers headlined a
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Christian Medical Fellowship: Sickness “caused by demons”
I wonder if moderate Christians wish that they could trademark the term “Christian” and stop the crazies from using it.
Although people who call themselves Christians vary hugely, organisations with “Christian” in the title are usually dangerous extremists. The only immediate exception I can think of is Christian Aid. Here in the UK we have:
- The Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, a worrying bunch seen lobbying in Parliament to change the abortion laws. Shares its premises with the Coalition 4 Marriage which, despite its name, is mainly a small bunch of conservative Christians trying to stop gay rights.
- The Christian Party, a fringe political group with policies that look like they were drawn selectively from verses in Exodus and Leviticus. Which they were.
- Christian Concern, a pressure group who think that gay rights step on Christians’ rights, and who are quite grumpy about the existence of sex education in schools.
- Christian Voice, another pressure group/ bunch of tinfoil hat exponents, whose views are amusingly demonstrated by this article. Or this one. I can’t decide which is better.
- Frequently radicalised university Christian Unions, such as the one in Exeter (where a schism led to its being renamed the “Evangelical Christian Union” since its views excluded everyone else), and the one in Bristol which recently had to do a hasty U-turn on letting women speak at its events.
- Christians in Parliament, whose website is not very enlightening, but who campaigned against the Advertising Standards Agency when it banned misleading advertisements for faith healing.
- The Christian Medical Fellowship, who worry me the most. If my GP believes my sickness is a result of my sins, I want to be informed before my appointment. And as I’m about to explain, CMF members might also believe your sickness is the result of demonic possession. Yeah, you read that right. Read the rest of this entry
Leaving Fundamentalism on facebook!
At the suggestion of some of my commenters, there is now a Leaving Fundamentalism facebook page here:
It currently has a pitiful number of likes, but the blog has a few hundred subscribers, so please spare my embarrassment and go and like the page!
I’ll be using it to help build a community of people who want to talk about getting over the experience of fundamentalism (and how awesome life is without it). I’ll also be using it to share the odd short message, picture, or video that’s worth your time but isn’t worth an entire blog post.
Aram’s Progress Part 3
This is the final part of the excerpts I’m publishing from Aram McLean’s forthcoming book, Aram’s Progress: A Boy in the Hands of an Angry World. Aram went to an Accelerated Christian Education school, like me, and these excerpts give a striking idea what that’s like.
This part ends with a story that some of you might find incredible. Even I am unsure what to make of it. On balance, though, I’m inclined to believe it. Part of the difficulty I face with this blog is getting people with no experience of this kind of religious fanaticism to comprehend the scale of it – it must often seem exaggerated. I believe Aram’s story because I could believe it of fundamentalist leaders I encountered, including my own school teachers. My pastor’s daughter confided in me that his idea of a reasonable punishment included dragging his own son – by the ear – along the landing and down the stairs. So, frankly, nothing would surprise me.
All three parts of Aram’s story are here.
Part 1, in which Aram explains how a learning center [sic] operates
Personal little flags were heavily utilized in the ACE system. To go up to the scoring station to self-check your PACE work so far, or to use the toilet, you unfurled a Canadian flag above your desk. If your bladder was full, you could only pray that the volunteering monitors and regular supervisors weren’t too tied up with other students, or each other. God only knew if He’d get them to answer your plea in time, to allow you to go and plop your holy offering into the sacred bowl of the ceramic alter.
To ask a question about a particular subject – say for example, “but doesn’t the story of Bathsheba mean that King David was a blatant murderer?” – you had to put up a so-called Christian flag; basically a little white number with a small red cross atop a blue corner. You were supposed to work on your other subjects while you waited – like maybe your Social Studies PACE which was informing you that this time they’d found the Ark on Ararat for sure, or your Biology PACE which was letting you know that mental illnesses were caused by demon possession and only prayer could cure them – until finally a passing supervisor or monitor kicked you out of your seat to lend a hand. Read the rest of this entry
Shortly after the shocking events of 9/11, I remember thinking that I had more respect for Jihadists and Islamists than I had for nominal Christians.
I was still a fundamentalist Christian. And I could see, with the clarity of the converted, that the fundamentalist Muslims were doing it right. They really believed their religion, and they acted on it. They were people of true faith, who took the words of their Holy Book seriously. Of course, their Holy Book was wrong and they were going to hell, but they were not like the watery compromisers of the Church of England, at least.
I was reminded of this when I watched the 2006 documentary Jesus Camp for the second time. Ten minutes and 50 seconds into Jesus Camp, children’s evangelist Becky Fischer says,
Where should we be putting our focus? I’ll tell you where our enemies are putting it: They’re putting it on the kids. They’re going into the schools. You go into Palestine… They’re taking their kids to camps like we take our kids to Bible camps, and they putting hand grenades in their hands… It’s no wonder with that kind of intense training and discipling that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam.
I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan, and in Israel [sic], and Palestine, and all those different places because we have… excuse me, but we have the truth!
So you see, I wasn’t kidding when I wrote “I could have been a suicide bomber.” [I managed to watch it online here; link is still good at the time of writing] Read the rest of this entry
Salvation through faith alone: poison
Everybody who reads this blog knows I am an atheist, but I try to avoid attacking core Christian doctrines. Ultimately, I believe in co-operation. I would like to work with reasonable Christian people to build a model of education which is agreeable for everyone. I don’t (usually) see any benefit in attacking beliefs.
Yes, I attack Young Earth Creationism, but this is not a core Christian doctrine. It is not even a core fundamentalist doctrine, historically. Fundamentalism was kickstarted by The Fundamentals, a collection of essays affirming Christian beliefs. Not everyone who contributed was a Creationist. It did contain a Creationist essay by George Frederick Wright, but Wright’s views were complicated. In many writings, he expressed support for Darwin, and his Creationism was far from that expressed by Ken Ham, Duane Gish, Henry Morris, or Ray Comfort.
Plus, Young Earth Creationism is demonstrably false. So if you want to make that a core Christian doctrine, then I can say unequivocally that Christianity is untrue, and we can stop the conversation right here.
In general, I do not find the concept of God either plausible or useful. But there are certain expressions of God that, while I don’t believe them, I can see how an intelligent person could hold them.
But, I’m sorry, salvation through faith alone, the cornerstone of the Reformation, of fundamentalism, and of conservative Protestantism, is a pernicious, poisonous doctrine. I really want to co-operate with Christians, but if that’s your view, I don’t think we’re going to find common ground. Read the rest of this entry
Creationists lying repeatedly
[New to this blog? Then you might not know what Accelerated Christian Education is. Here’s a whistle-stop tour.]
There are claims in the PACEs which even Creationists have known and acknowledged are untrue for decades. Despite this, they continue to be taught as science in ACE schools. But the thing that’s shocking is that the books in question have been revised multiple times since their first publication. Despite the fact that these claims have been publicly disproved for years, ACE has continued to teach them as science through successive reprints of their materials. This shows a flagrant disregard for accuracy. That’s not what I want from an educational publisher.
It seems inconceivable that, in the twenty-five years since these claims were first printed, ACE have not been made well aware of their inaccuracy (indeed, later I will present evidence that they have been, and have ignored it). Read the rest of this entry
BBC Radio Interview (listen again online)
If you missed it yesterday, my interview on the Mike Read show (17/1/2013) is available to listen online for the next 7 days. Click here.
Thanks to everyone who came out to Reading Skeptics last night. It was a really great group of people, some great questions were asked, and I got the feeling that several of them wanted to do something about what I said, and not just have a good grumble in the bar afterwards.
Disappointingly, no representative from the Vine Christian School was in attendance (boo!), even though I’m told they were invited. I’m genuinely disappointed about this, because I would love a chance to discuss my concerns with them. No one I’ve approached from ACE or an ACE school has seriously engaged with my criticisms. I can’t blame them for not showing up to Reading Skeptics though – it would have been a very hostile audience.
BBC Radio Berkshire TODAY
News of my awesomeness has spread rapidly, it seems.
Today I will be appearing on BBC Radio Berkshire’s Mike Read show from 3:00 UK (for my geographically and arithmetically challenged US buddies, that’d be 9:00am Central and 10:00 Eastern). You can listen live online here.
I’m not officially on to talk about religious extremists – I’m there promoting my music (My Listen EP, available now as a limited edition signed and numbered CD) – but I’m sure I’ll wind up mentioning that 2,000 children in the UK attend institutions that, according to their founders, exist primarily for the purpose of indoctrination.
If you miss the show, it will be available afterwards on the listen again page.
Don’t forget my Skeptics in the Pub talk afterwards, at Copa, King’s Road, from 7:30.