Leaving fundamentalism: an interview with Jonny Scaramanga

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.


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


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


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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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on February 20, 2014, in Accelerated Christian Education, Atheism, Christianity, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Sorry I did not realize it was “horrific”.

    I thought you look rather charming for women on it 🙂

  2. Lotharson’s argues that ‘fundamentalist education’ is the culprit for problems inherent in ACE. He utilizes the creationist and anti-evolutionary components as an offshoot from a literal reading of scripture to be where the real source of the problems lie (as well as a nod to the philosophical model for regurgitation represented by the behaviouralism proposed by B.F. Skinner).

    I disagree with this explanation.

    Lotharson claims this site – Leaving Fundamentlaism – is a far cry from “hateful anti-theists such as Dawkins or Jerry Coyne,” and that Jonny “makes a real effort to understand the fundamentalist mindset.”

    This is putting the cart before the horse because if fundamentalism was the driver of creationist and anti-evolutionary opinion on display in ACE, then we should expect to find a strong correlation between these anti-scientific beliefs and only the ‘fundamentalists’ who hold them. But this is not what we find.

    We find that those who identify as such religious fundamentalists in the US – about 4% of the general population – do hold these positions. So far, so good. I assume the same would be true in Britain for any religious group that holds to the inerrancy of whatever scripture is being used. But why, then, does nearly half of the total population in the US support these same beliefs and and another quarter of the population believe in some kind of divinely guided evolution? These are NOT ‘fundamental’ believers described by lotharson, nor only the kind of fundamentalists that can be found in the ranks of those who utilize ACE, but a majority of the US population.

    What these statistics reveal is a widespread failure in education to understand evolution in the scientific sense: unguided natural selection. Standing against this scientific understanding is a vast majority of US citizens and I presume a sizable minority in Britain… most of whom have never been exposed to any kind of ACE curriculum or indoctrination into evangelical Christianity.

    So what’s going here?

    If ‘fundamentalist education’ were the problem, this reality should not exist. But it does exist and can be demonstrated to be so. And to help explain why, commentators at lotharson’s linked site introduce us to the Boghossian thesis that we are not being taught how to think very well. Boghossian argues that we privilege religious belief in many ways as if belonging to that category of religious belief somehow justified explanations that incorporates these faith-based beliefs. Of course, lotharson and other commenters vilify the thesis by fiat because, after all, Boghossian is an atheist who is trying to disabuse people of their confidence in their faith-based beliefs not by counter examples of particular conflicting data (which seems to earn the label of ‘hate’ and ‘intolerance’ and ‘militant’ if introduced) but by being shown the weakness of the method behind those explanations. Boghossian argues very effectively with evidence adduced from reality – as any good teacher should – that how we think very much determines what we think… and lotharson and other commenters demonstrates exactly this, which ironically just so happens to be Boghossian’s very point.

    The abusive and harmful system that is ACE can only exist within a society that allows faith-based belief respect. If the apron of this respect were lifted and revealed ACE only for its academic merit measured against best teaching practices and curriculum that supported critical and creative thinking inside a supportive social setting, we’d find it ranked very poorly. I would even go so far as to give it an unqualified failure in this metric for educational merit.

  3. Looking forward to the book.

  4. I noticed you said the ‘horrific’ picture was gone, and then I opened the article and had to think, ‘Oh my, what the hell did the other photo looked like!?’
    Ah, just teasing. I think you look very cute 😉
    Also, I enjoyed the interview. I too suffered from ‘holding door open’ syndrome as a child, to excessive degrees. Body-checking others to reach the door first and hold it open was not unheard of.

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