Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
Richard Dawkins, interview with The National Geographic Channel (via thedragoninmygarage)
Many adults are put off when youngsters pose scientific questions. Children ask why the sun is yellow, or what a dream is, or how deep you can dig a hole, or when is the world’s birthday, or why we have toes.
Too many teachers and parents answer with irritation or ridicule, or quickly move on to something else. Why adults should pretend to omniscience before a five-year-old, I can’t for the life of me understand. What’s wrong with admitting that you don’t know? Children soon recognize that somehow this kind of question annoys many adults. A few more experiences like this, and another child has been lost to science.
There are many better responses. If we have an idea of the answer, we could try to explain. If we don’t, we could go to the encyclopedia or the library. Or we might say to the child: “I don’t know the answer. Maybe no one knows. Maybe when you grow up, you’ll be the first to find out.
//I’ve been fighting off tears of sympathy and sadness and horror for the last six hours, but now that the kids are in bed I can finally let them flow freely.
Dear theist parents,
Your children would have made you proud today. They told the one child that stood up for them against bullies on the playground a few weeks ago that he was a terrible person because he doesn’t go to church.
Your children would have made you proud today. They told the one child they trusted to never laugh at their expense, that he was headed for hell because he doesn’t believe in your god. And that they would laugh at him from heaven.
Your children would have made you proud today. They told their best friend, the friend that was always there for them with encouraging words and a huge smile and help with reading, that they would never talk to him again him because he was evil. They don’t want his evil to turn them evil too.
Your children would have made you proud today. They told the child that has so much empathy he would happily spend HOURS searching for medicine on that silly City Folk game because one of the characters was sick, that he is just as bad as your devil.
Your children would have made you proud today. They told the child who decided to donate all of his allowance money and several of his Christmas presents to the women’s shelter so the kids there could have a few nice new things, that he’d be better off gone because atheists are evil.
Dear theist parents. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve taught your children hate and cruelty, you’ve taught them malicious words and a spiteful religion, you’ve taught your children how to bully anyone that doesn’t bow down to a god your kids couldn’t even define.
I hope you’re proud.
"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.
The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.”
All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone.
And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.”
I finally got around to watching Jesus Camp. After everything I’ve heard, I was expecting child abuse. I was expecting violence, or something. I don’t really know what I was expecting.
Jesus Camp could just as easily have been filmed at my house, at my church, at my summer camps. That was very literally what my childhood was like. Watching it didn’t make me angry, it made me nostalgic.
The camp those kids went to could just as easily have been Camp Good News in Huntsville, Texas, or Discovery Camp before that, or VBS before that. That lady, the children’s pastor, reminded me of a cross between Miss Debbie, who taught children’s church, and Miss Lorena, who ran the youth program. It was even filmed when I was the same age as the children filmed.
My point being, those kids could have been me, so I don’t see why everybody quotes that movie as this horrible example of religious brainwashing.
…Oh right, now I remember.
I was brainwashed.
I love this post. I was getting more and more frustrated until that last line. Awesome.
I’ve seen this movie twice, once as a brand new not-quite-atheist and I got the nostalgic feeling mixed with a bit of confusion and distrust. The second viewing was through clear eyes and filled me with revulsion and… horror… that I hadn’t seen it for what it was the first time I watched, even as an adult.
I’m almost certain I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the “activities” I experienced at a Jesus Camp was standing with a group of other children, holding our hands out over a fire pit, and praying aloud for the souls that were headed for hell unless WE SAVED THEM. Soldiers for God. That’s what we were supposed to be.
Scary stuff. ~JJ
Two parents in Washington state have been found guilty of murder after following the abusive parenting techniques advocated in the parenting book “To Train Up a Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl.
Larry and Carri Williams received the maximum prison sentences allowable under the law after being found guilty of beating and starving their adopted daughter Hana to death. The methods they used to “discipline” their daughter were advocated in the controversial Christian book.
The New York Times reported:
Late one night in May this year, the adopted girl, Hana, was found face down, naked and emaciated in the backyard; her death was caused by hypothermia and malnutrition, officials determined. According to the sheriff’s report, the parents had deprived her of food for days at a time and had made her sleep in a cold barn or a closet and shower outside with a hose. And they often whipped her, leaving marks on her legs. The mother had praised the Pearls’ book and given a copy to a friend, the sheriff’s report said. Hana had been beaten the day of her death, the report said, with the 15-inch plastic tube recommended by Mr. Pearl.
Some of the discipline techniques the Pearls teach include:
-Using plastic tubing to beat children, since it hurts a lot but leaves fewer marks to alert authorities
-Wearing the plastic tubing around the parent’s neck as a constant reminder to obey
-“Swatting” babies as young as six months old with instruments such as “a 12-inch willowy branch,” thinner plastic tubing or a wooden spoon
-“Blanket training” babies by hitting them with an instrument if they try to crawl off a blanket on the floor
-Beating older children with rulers, paddles, belts and larger tree branches
-“Training” children with pain before they even disobey, in order to teach total obedience
-Giving cold water baths, putting children outside in cold weather and withholding meals as discipline
-Hosing off children who have potty training accidents
-Inflicting punishment until a child is “without breath to complain.”
Michael Pearl tells one mother on his website, “I could break his anger in two days. He would be too scared to get angry. On the third day he would draw into a quiet shell and obey.”
The Pearls and their ministry, No Greater Joy, make an estimated $1.7 million a year.
The couple is the third set of parents to be found guilty of killing their children by following the teachings of the book, which is commonly given out in churches and sent for free to military families. Many other parents have been found guilty of child abuse and torture for following the advice of the Pearls, and it is unknown how many other children’s deaths could be tied to the books.
IN RITUAL BATHHOUSES OF THE JEWISH ORTHODOXY, CHILDREN ARE SYSTEMATICALLY ABUSED
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg, the lone whistleblower among the Satmar, a powerful Hasidic sect, who recently was the victim of a bleach attack in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All photos by Christian Storm.
Rabbi Nuchem Rosenberg—who is 63 with a long, graying beard—recently sat down with me to explain what he described as a “child-rape assembly line” among sects of fundamentalist Jews. He cleared his throat. “I’m going to be graphic,” he said.
A member of Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidim fundamentalist branch of Orthodox Judaism, Nuchem designs and repairs mikvahs in compliance with Torah Law. The mikvah is a ritual Jewish bathhouse used for purification. Devout Jews are required to cleanse themselves in the mikvah on a variety of occasions: women must visit following menstruation, and men have to make an appearance before the High Holidays such as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many of the devout also purify themselves before and after the act of sex, and before the Sabbath.
On a visit to Jerusalem in 2005, Rabbi Rosenberg entered into a mikvah in one of the holiest neighborhoods in the city, Mea She’arim. “I opened a door that entered into a schvitz,” he told me. “Vapors everywhere, I can barely see. My eyes adjust, and I see an old man, my age, long white beard, a holy-looking man, sitting in the vapors. On his lap, facing away from him, is a boy, maybe seven years old. And the old man is having anal sex with this boy.”
Rabbi Rosenberg paused, gathered himself, and went on: “This boy was speared on the man like an animal, like a pig, and the boy was saying nothing. But on his face—fear. The old man [looked at me] without any fear, as if this was common practice. He didn’t stop. I was so angry, I confronted him. He removed the boy from his penis, and I took the boy aside. I told this man, ‘It’s a sin before God, a mishkovzucher. What are you doing to this boy’s soul? You’re destroying this boy!’ He had a sponge on a stick to clean his back, and he hit me across the face with it. ‘How dare you interrupt me!’ he said. I had heard of these things for a long time, but now I had seen.”
The child sex abuse crisis in ultra-Orthodox Judaism, like that in the Catholic Church, has produced its share of shocking headlines in recent years. In New York, and in the prominent Orthodox communities of Israel and London, allegations of child molestation and rape have been rampant. The alleged abusers are schoolteachers, rabbis, fathers, uncles—figures of male authority. The victims, like those of Catholic priests, are mostly boys. Rabbi Rosenberg believes around half of young males in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community—the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world—have been victims of sexual assault perpetrated by their elders. Ben Hirsch, director of Survivors for Justice, a Brooklyn organization that advocates for Orthodox sex abuse victims, thinks the real number is higher. “From anecdotal evidence, we’re looking at over 50 percent. It has almost become a rite of passage.”…
I can’t even explain how disgusted I am by this. I have to calm down because I feel like punching the first Hasid I come across (and I know that’s wrong). If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times: religion is the ultimate sheep’s clothing for wolves. The more forcefully someone professes piety, the more likely they are to be a vile piece of shit. And the more women are excluded from leadership or involvement in an organization, the more likely it is to be a breeding ground for abuse and corruption.
But hey, the whole fucking thing is based on a guy who was willing to carve up his own child for the sake of his god, so…