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On mind-controlling cults, Fred Phelps, and Ockham Awards

I spent the weekend before last at QEDCon, a convention for people who like science and don’t like pseudoscience. While I was mainly there to speak on a panel, I also ended up winning an award after you, the readers of Leaving Fundamentalism, had managed to get this blog shortlisted. This was the Ockham Award for Best Blog, sponsored by The Skeptic.

Here I am receiving the award from Nate Phelps (Thanks to zooterkin for the photo). Nate is an escapee from Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious cult. Of which more in a moment.

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The eagle-eyed among you will notice that the usually-professional Richard Wiseman had in fact furnished me with the wrong award, but I was too busy being pleased to win to notice this:

And then someone pointed it out, which led to this:

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Is this moral?

Written by ACE's Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Written by ACE’s Vice President and head of curriculum development.

Children matriculate into Christian school in dire need of spiritual programing [sic] of their minds to accept and desire the things of Christ. Conditioning, according to Philippians 4:8 (whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure. . . .) breaks down secular programed [sic] ideas, thoughts, and habits alien to Scripture. Little by little, day after day in the temple, things of God hammer away at the worldliness packed into the child’s treasure chest of experiences. The carnal nature of children necessitates that adults sometimes do more than just nudge their thinking toward godliness. This fact forms a basis for the use of demerits, detentions, corporal correction, discipline committees, corrective research, etc.

Corrective research?? 

Modern society constantly bombards his mind with negative character drains, things that take his focus off eternity.  Restricting secular access to his mind and conditioning with Scriptural principles breaks down the child’s carnal resistance against God, removing previously (or currently) accepted ideas, values, notions, and concepts. Little by little things of God begin to hammer away at the child’s resisting nature.  At first, the child (especially teenagers) may reject godly standards and principles – yet gradually, negative mental resistance gives way. The Holy Spirit’s first knock at their heart’s door is met by a resounding “no!” The second knock is heard with less offense and resistance; “I will try it but I won’t like it.” Finally, the grace of God wins its way into the child’s heart, bringing the child into conformity with those principles which enable him to succeed in a Christian ministry.

Ronald E. Johnson, Under Tutors & Governors, (c) 1980 Accelerated Christian Education

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Rape victim, confess your sin

Trigger warning in this post for rape and victim blaming.

In 1997, a Baptist church deacon, Ernie Willis (38), raped Tina Anderson, then 15. As a result, Anderson became pregnant. The church pastor, Chuck Phelps, covered up this rape, and had Anderson relocated to another state (with a plane ticket paid for by her rapist). She was home schooled, and not allowed contact with her peers until after she had given the baby up for adoption.  Willis had even confessed his guilt to the pastor, conceding that he was the “aggressor”. Anderson’s relocation effectively shut down the police investigation into the matter. There is some disagreement as to whether the authorities were informed at the time; roughly, Phelps says they were, and everyone else says they weren’t.  Read the rest of this entry

How to Con a Christian

Voltaire said those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. The philosopher might have added that they can also empty your wallet.

“For every pound you put in this offering bucket, you will get a hundred back.” This is the doctrine of the hundredfold return.

I hate telling people I used to believe that. The reason I hate telling them is the thought that went through your head when you read that first sentence:

“No you won’t!”

You didn’t even have to think about it. It’s just not true. If you put a pound in an offering bucket, the net result is that you have one less pound in your pocket, and that is all. I will always envy you for that. You didn’t lose twenty years to it, and I did.

For me, it was the indisputable truth and anyone who couldn’t see it was just deceived by the devil. I hate seeing the blank, unimpressed looks on people’s faces when I tell them this. This was the whole of my life for two decades, and you can dismiss it in less time than it takes me to say it.

How is this? As you can (hopefully) see, I am not stupid. How can it be that men with slicked back hair and expensive suits have conned hundreds of thousands – in Britain, not just America – with something so blatantly, transparently false?

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