Monthly Archives: February 2013

A secular church?

I’m guest blogging again, this time for the Rationalist Association:

(The title wasn’t mine; I don’t object to it, really, although I might take out the second “r”)

Churches scarred me, but secularism can be lonely

Scarred by his fundamentalist upbringing, but in search of a sense of belonging, Jonny Scaramanga gives a cautious welcome to then idea of an atheist church

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist. If you’ve ever watched God TV, or seen a Creationist trolling a science blog, insisting that the Grand Canyon was carved out in a fortnight by Noah’s Flood, you’ve met my old beliefs.

Because my brand of Christianity was so sectarian and divisive, I’ve rarely been part of any kind of community in my life. I regarded the local Anglican church as a dead form of religion unrelated to True Christianity. But I grew up in a small village, with a C of E school and church, and I saw how the church was a hub for the community. People eating in the deli on weekdays seemed to know each other, neighbours chatted in the village shops, and people said hello in the street. It was the kind of English idyll which isn’t supposed to exist anymore.

Since I became an atheist, I’ve often chatted to friends about ways to build the sense of community which churches are supposed to create. The idea of neighbours not being strangers, of meeting people you otherwise never would, and of doing things to support the community seems completely desirable to me.

The Christian Schools’ Trust

Although I usually blog about Accelerated Christian Education, they’re not the only Christian schools in the UK that could be called fundamentalist.

The Christian Schools’ Trust is just as keen on Biblical inerrancy, just as opposed to evolution, and just as keen on spanking. But without the bizarre ACE learning center set up, they appear much more normal from the outside.

Today, I’ve joined The Heresy Club to talk about the CST.

There’s a group of 40 schools where only 10% of pupils accept the theory of evolution and 27% accept that the Earth is billions of years old, while 80% believe in a literal hell and 68% believe homosexuality is wrong.


Combined with the approximately 60 (separate) Accelerated Christian Education schools in the UK, that means there are around 100 Creationist schools operating without transparency or critique. They’re not even subject to the same inspection standards as other schools. The CST and the Association of Muslim Schools UK joined forces to form the Bridge Schools’ Inspectorate. This means they don’t have to deal with OFSTED, the UK schools inspectorate, but instead effectively inspect themselves.

Read the rest here.

This is a short video on adults who claim they were beaten at their fundamentalist school. Well worth watching.

Drinking the Kool Aid

Well, it’s taken nearly a year, but my blog is finally starting to attract attention from hardcore Creationists keen to set me straight. Now abide these three: Donald McSanders, ‘seriously?‘, and napplegate. But the greatest of these is napplegate, who attended an ACE school and has come here to defend its greatness against the heathen attack. Keep in mind as you’re reading this that this is a successful ACE student – ie, this is how ACE intends for its graduates to think.

In fairness, I believe napplegate is using a form of his/her real name (N Applegate), and what appears to be a genuine email address, which already puts him/her a cut above ‘seriously?’, who anonymously writes to inform us “We were taught to read so that we could read the Holy Bible”.

You might want to do some research on the dates of the earliest written language vs. the dating of the Bible there, Chuck.

napplegate, on the other hand, is a genius. At one point, I genuinely had no idea if he was a Poe, but I’m now pretty sure he’s for real. Here are some highlights from his comments on the blog (which are in breach of my comment policy, but I’m finding them too amusing to delete).

napplegate on cryptozoology:

when you have over 1000 sightings of the loch-ness monster, your conclusion should probably be that there likely is a monster(a plesiasaurous) in there. That picture on the Japanese vessel was an actual photograph (link)

The last sentence is especially delightful. No one’s denying the picture was an actual photograph; it’s just that it happens to be a picture of a dead shark.

Read the rest of this entry

Survivor Story: ACE and Bible Verse Bookmarks

“I was shunned, but survived”. I’m thrilled to present today’s guest post, from Rebecca Arman of Tasmania. Rebecca mentioned to me in emails how difficult her experience of fundamentalism was to get over, and she was unsure about writing her story, so I hope you’ll all leave comments to thank her for her honesty and courage.

Of all my stories of my past life challenges,  I find this one a very difficult one to tell. Perhaps I’m embarrassed knowing what I know now, to remember those days. And perhaps I still feel loyal to my partner and a reluctance to dishonour him. But I make this bit clear. I do not dishonour him. I loved him dearly and fought hard with him to beat the tumour that took his life. I did not want him to die, nor my children to grow up without a father. But sometimes men make bad decisions. And he sure did make one bad one…..

I am writing this in a lovely bakery near Salamanca market on a balmy Hobart Saturday afternoon. I’m feeling at peace, in my new independent travel mode, enjoying the buzz and beauty of Battery Point. With old buildings containing galleries and shops on one side, a sea port on another, a mountain backdrop, and green parks to laze in, it is a stunning part of Tasmania I rarely knew when I lived here years ago. Nearly 30 years has passed since my first baby was born on the opposite part of Tasmania in very different circumstances. ACE is Accelerated Christian Education, and it is still taught in church run schools in Western Countries today.

When my first baby was born, my husband had started a job as a teacher in a Baptist Church School that used ACE curriculum. During the years leading up to this I was the only daughter of a strict, verbally and emotionally abusive father and an unhappy, resentful mother. When  I met my children’s father, he was a ‘normal’, fun loving, attractive, fit, kind hearted person, a graduate from teachers college seeking employment. A few years later I had involuntarily become a fundamentalist Christian  teacher/pastors wife, and  the indoctrination of those years had a huge tole on me. Many years of counselling, thinking, reading and reprogramming was needed before I became a real person. I drifted into early marriage after my loneliness of teenage bully years, which together with my parents nightly fighting and totally dysfunctional relationship, had created an insecurity and void in my life. I had no confidence, and my friends were few. Nothing I did could please my parents and I felt I didn’t fit in or belong anywhere.  I was unloved, so I married, for love, had babies to be loved, and accepted, and before I knew it my life spun out of control and I was in a community where I knew little of life outside this church school. It killed my soul and broke my heart, but I recovered.  Read the rest of this entry

A step-by-step guide to beating children, by ACE

Last week, I finally got my hands on something I’ve been trying to get for more than ten years. This.


This is the correct way to beat a child

Yes, that’s a picture of a kid being bent over a chair so he can be beaten. This picture is from page 118 of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual (part 1, 1998 revision). That’s the guide that all Accelerated Christian Education schools are required to follow in running their schools. I was 13 the first time I saw this picture, and I found it shocking even though, as a good Bible-believing Christian, I knew it was God’s will for children to be spanked.

Critics of my blog often tell me that I am wrong to highlight instances of child abuse in ACE schools. “Child abuse happens in all kinds of schools”, they tell me. “You’re just trying to smear ACE”.

To those critics I say: Look at this picture, and then tell me that. Yes, child abuse happens in all kinds of places. But most of those places don’t consider it to be one of their main selling points.

Read the rest of this entry

Leaving Fundamentalism in the Guardian’s Comment is Free

I had an article published on the Guardian website last week.

It won’t contain any news for regular readers of this blog, but I’m very glad to see this conversation happening in the mass media at last, rather than a niche blog. And although the Grauniad wasn’t so kind as to link to my blog, I have been getting hits from people searching for Jonny Scaramanga (not to mention “Johnny Scaramanger”, “Jonny Scaremonger”, and miscellaneous misspellings).

So here we go:

Accelerated Christian Education’s fundamentalist curriculum is used by more than 50 British schools. It is known for silent classrooms where students teach themselves, using workbooks in isolated booths. Professor Harry Brighouse describes ACE’s view as “a teleological account of American history as leading to the ultimate fulfilment of God’s will“. You may be unsurprised to learn that ACE was founded in Texas. ACE made headlines last year for a science textbook that cites the existence of the Loch Ness monster as evidence against evolution. Despite this, government agency UK NARIC defended its decision to deem ACE’s in-house qualification, the International Certificate of Christian Education, comparable to A-levels. Incredibly, Nessie isn’t ACE’s most bizarre claim. Here are five more:

Continue reading at the Guardian…

Also, I don’t know if I mentioned this or not, but… LEAVING FUNDAMENTALISM IS NOW ON FACEBOOK!!!!!!!