Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XVI: Wherein Geology is Roundly Abused

My darlings, our trek through these Christianist earth science textbooks has been a long and tiresome one, but our perseverance has at last been rewarded: we have arrived at the units on Geology! Thanks to the Flood myth, God is all over this branch of the earth sciences like long-lost relatives on a lottery winner. Geology is second only to evolutionary biology when it comes to science creationists can’t stand. So this should be good (for sarcastic values of good).

We’ll see if either Science of the Physical Creation or Earth Sciences 4th Edition acknowledge the fact that it was geology that first dealt creationism a mortal blow. I mean, before the early geologists really got to looking at the earth and went, “This overwhelming evidence shows this planet must be very old indeed,” it was possible for a scientist to be a creationist and still be perfectly respectable. But then James Hutton and Charles Lyell kneecapped the young earth theory with a rock hammer. And then, as creationism was thrashing around, hollering “It’s only a flesh wound!” and threatening to bite off their kneecaps, along came Darwin and lopped its head off with the theory of evolution, which itself had been forged in the fires of Lyell’s elegant evidence for an elderly Earth. And ever since, young earth creationists have been hobbling about headless, whilst brashly proclaiming they can still wear a hat.

So let us marvel at their shenanigans by first turning to page 192 of A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation. [Read more…]

Turns Out Josh Duggar is a Lying, Cheating Sleazebag. Only Conservative Christians are Surprised

I wouldn’t ordinarily be writing a post about a grown man’s adultery with other grown people. If you cheat on your spouse, you’re a scumbag, but you’re your spouse’s problem – unless, of course, you’re one of those moralizing shitlords who try to keep my queer friends from getting married, encourage people to hate on them, tell us we’re damned for enjoying premarital sex on the regular, and try to legislate what we can do with our reproductive systems and our relationships. In that case, damn straight your cheating is public business, because if you can’t practice, you shouldn’t be preaching, much less trying to get laws passed to condemn others for what you’re doing.

And Josh Duggar, the holier-than-thou sleazeball who loved to pretend he was the perfect husband and father, whose actual work was to harm families that didn’t fit his own narrow definition, has not one but two different kinds of sex scandal going on. First we find out he molested his sisters and their babysitter, now he’s forced to confess that he signed up on Ashley Madison so he could cheat on his wife. He had an OK Cupid account, too. And a Facebook account where he followed local strippers. And a Twitter account where he showed himself to be the typical pathetic straight white boy interacting with women. The man was obsessed with illicit sex.

Image is grayscale. On the right is Josh Duggar, showing only his face. He looks like he's about to cry. To the left are the words, "Be sure your sin will find you out. Num. 32:23"

Yeah, in this instance, the Bible was right.

I’m not happy the truth came out like it did. The people who hacked Ashley Madison were so busy being self-righteous assholes that they gave not a single thought to the kind of people whose lives might be put at risk by their leaks. They didn’t think of the people who would be driven to suicide, the people who might face domestic violence, or the people who could get executed for breaking the law in their countries. They didn’t think of the singles who were on there because it seemed like a safe and secure place to meet a same-sex partner. They didn’t think of the sex workers who would be put at risk. didn’t think of the ordinary lives that would be destroyed. The little shitheads just wanted to prove their point. And like little shitheads everywhere, they’re so full of themselves they have no room for anyone else. I hope they get to contemplate their actions from the interior of a jail cell for quite a long time. [Read more…]

Strategic Responses to Tract Thruster Tactics: Let Us Brainstorm Together!

This article at No Longer Quivering gives some insight onto the tactics and motivations of Tract Thrusters. You’ve probably encountered at least one of these annoyingly religious folks who make it their business to get up in your business and thrust their terrible tracts at you, then run off having convinced themselves they’ve done something heroic. Or you’ve dealt with a shiny doorknocking person who’s just convinced you’ll come right to Jesus once you’ve heard their Extra Special Message You’ve Only Heard 1000x Before, and obviously you’ll want to forego sleep, food, etc. to hear the Good News.

Image shows an orange and white kitty dressed as a Mormon missionary, being held sitting up on its owner's lap with a mini Book Of Mormon.  Caption says, "Have you heard the good word about Ceiling Cat, Brother?c

Oftentimes, we’re caught flat-footed. Especially in the case of Tract Thrusters who impose themselves upon us in public without warning, we may not be ready with an instant riposte. So let’s think of creative ways to respond if some zealot tries to force religious tracts upon us.

For instance: if I’m in a hurry, I’ll hand their tract back, saying, “That’s so thoughtful, but I’m overstocked on butt wipes from bigots. Have a nice day!” If I have time and inclination, I shall sit down with them and ask them to explain exactly what each bit means, asking them to define terms like “God” and explain to me how the more violent or gross verses and stories in the Bible (or Holy Book in question) apply to the tract in question. Intersperse with horribly embarrassing personal anecdotes about fictional uncouth religious family members. Repeat until they flee.

Of course, the most efficient response would be to reciprocate with tracts from the Satanic Temple. Alas, those only come in a swag bag, but for cheap comebacks to religious solicitation, perhaps these spiffy buttons will do. And maybe, as an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I should write a tract or two myself…

What’s your strategy? Have you already countered a Tract Thruster with a brilliant counter-ploy? Do tell!

“The Gravity Keeping My World In Place Was Gone” – Escape Chapter 7: Marriage

All of the content warnings, people. Have your emergency kitten on standby. In the final pages of this chapter of Escape, we get a first-hand look at what a forced polygamous marriage looks like.

Two days ago, the Prophet announced Carolyn could go to college – but she has to marry virtual stranger and terrible human Merril Jessop first. Carolyn, her dad, and her two moms arrive in Salt Lake City for her wedding to a man 32 years her senior. She hasn’t spoken with him. She doesn’t even want him to touch her. But when her father only gets two hotel rooms, she realizes she’s going to be forced to sleep with Merril. As her mothers get her dressed and coiffed for the ceremony, she feels like she’s “being prepared for a ritual sacrifice.” [Read more…]

“My Future Had Just Vanished” – Escape Chapter 7: Marriage

This chapter of Escape is going to infuriate you. I would advise you to have some time set aside for self-care afterward. Find something you can hurl, and something to hurl it at that won’t break. Maybe get a stick to bite down on, or a pillow you can scream into, if you’re reading this while others are trying to sleep.

Content Note for forced marriage, child marriage, sexual abuse, and misogynistic assholes.

Carolyn is still intent on becoming a pediatrician. She’s just graduated high school and worked the following year as a teacher’s assistant while attending community college. She knows she’ll need to attend a good four-year college in order to pursue her dream. For most of us, the biggest problem would be money. As long as we’d worked our academic asses off like Carolyn did, we’d have no trouble getting in to at least one excellent school. And our parents would be 100% behind having a doctor in the family. They’d move heaven and earth to help us fulfill our dream.

Carolyn can’t even tell her dad she wants to be a doctor. The most she risks telling him is that she wants to go to college. Just stop here a moment and picture that. Imagine having a parent with the power to keep you home, one who may destroy your dream in a heartbeat, just because he may decide your only possible use as a human being will be as an incubator. [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XV: Wherein Water Proves God is an Asshole

One thing reading Christianist textbooks does is teaches you to be cynical. No claim, no matter how innocuous, no matter how heart-warming, can be taken for granted. Observe:

Earth Science Fourth Edition’s chapter on groundwater begins with a charming little story about PlayPumps, which are merry-go-rounds attached to water pumps. It sounds like a difference-making idea: African village kids get some nice playtime, women don’t have to work so hard to get water, and advertisements on the water towers help pay for the pumps. It’s a great idea! Except, they don’t work too great. You need a good source of clean groundwater to begin with, kids would have to “play” three hours more per day than the standard 24 available, and the ads actually don’t make enough money to pay for the upkeep.

All of these problems were manifest two years before this book was published, by the way. Yet not a single problem is mentioned in the text. [Read more…]

Fundamentalist High School Drama – Escape Chapter 6: The Nusses

After the unremitting awful that was the last chapter, it’s nice to hit a light-ish one again. This is Escape, so there’s still plenty of bullshit that will make your teeth grind, but I’ve gotta admit, it’s kind of fun to get a taste of high school drama FLDS style

There’s a new high school in town, so those folks on the Prophet Uncle Roy side of the great religious divide can finally get an education.

The split in our community was now in it’s seventh year. One of the consequences was that many families pulled their children out of the private high school so they would not be contaminated by the children of the families on the other side of the divide who supported Uncle Roy. As a result, many boys wound up working on construction jobs instead of going to high school. The girls who were forbidden to go to the private high school were confined to their homes. Most of the girls who were kept out of school were disappointed because they had wanted an education and a diploma before they were assigned to a marriage. They knew that their futures were being shortchanged.

Yep. When you’ve got your eyes on eternal salvation, you don’t give a shit about your kids’ education. You don’t care if their ignorance cripples them here on Earth, condemning them to a lifetime of misery and poverty, just so long as their souls are saved. Besides, too much book-learnin’ could lead to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XIV: Wherein We Row Our Creationist Boat Gently Down the Streams

At last we leave the vasty deep behind and sail upon the streams and lakes of the world. Alas, we’re still stuck on the S.S. Earth Sciences 4th Edition. A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation only talks about freshwater features in the context of weathering and erosion. I’ve peeked ahead at that chapter, and I can assure you we’re in for some serious creationist fuckery there. The open question is: can it out-Christianist the Christianist experts at ES4? Stay tuned to find out! [Read more…]

Trapped – Escape Chapter 5: “Linda’s Flight to Freedom”

In our last installment of Escape, we watched Carolyn’s sister Linda flee the FLDS cult with her friend Claudel, despite the threat of losing their families and being condemned to the worst portions of hell. In the last half of this chapter, we’ll see that running from the FLDS is one thing. Hiding successfully is quite another.

When women flee the FLDS, they’re hunted down like fugitives on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, only with less of a chance to evade capture. Linda and Claudel only manage a few days of freedom before they’re tracked and surrounded by a posse of their male relatives. The woman they’re staying with has to call the police to get rid of them, and even when told by the cops that the girls are legal adults and can do whatever they want, so scram, Linda’s dad won’t leave until he’s talked to her. She finally relents when he promises to leave her alone after they’ve spoken.

Pro tip: when an abusive asshole or a cult authority tells you they’ll stop bothering you if you’ll just talk to them this once, they’re lying. So, y’know, don’t bother. [Read more…]

Bringing Warren Jeffs to Justice: The Witness Wore Red Review

If you’ve read Elissa Wall’s harrowing Stolen Innocence, you already know a sliver of Rebecca Musser’s story. She’s Elissa’s sister, and was introduced under the pseudonym Kassandra. You’ll remember her as the vivacious young woman married to elderly prophet Rulon Jeffs. She had tried to make Elissa’s underage coerced wedding day less painful, became her lifeline, and left her devastated when she fled the cult. Later, Rebecca helped Elissa begin her escape by giving her a taste of life outside the FLDS. The sisters would later be instrumental in bringing Warren Jeffs to justice.

In The Witness Wore Red, we not only get Rebecca’s own story: we get aspects of Elissa’s story through her sister’s eyes, which helps broaden and deepen the context of both their lives. We see the Wall family as it was in the earlier days, before the new house, when Elissa and Rebecca’s part of the family would have to hide in the basement to escape the violent jealousy of their father’s other wife. We’re shown some of the domestic violence endemic to FLDS families, and the child sexual assault perpetrated so often within them – in addition to the violent other mother, Rebecca has to endure groping and attempted rape by an older half-brother. She, of course, is the one who gets called a whore when he assaults her.

If you’ve read Stolen Innocence first, it’s a bit confusing at first to navigate this book, which is using different names for people we already know from Elissa’s book, but you soon get everyone sorted out. And you’re too wrapped up in the trainwrecks of all these various lives to mind. Rebecca and her co-author are very good at putting you in Rebecca’s shoes, experiencing the stomach-clenching anxiety, anger, and despair of a girl trying to navigate the minefields of her religiously-smothered life.

She survives the FLDS school where Warren Jeffs rules, and gets a brief taste of adult life as a teacher, before being betrothed to 85 year-old Rulon Jeffs at the age of 18. Shortly after her 19th birthday, she becomes his 19th wife, very much against her own wishes. She’s never been given counseling to help her sort out the guilt and shame from her half-brother’s sexual assault, and on her wedding night, is desperately hoping humans are indeed higher than animals and that she won’t be forced to endure Rulon’s sexual advances. FLDS members are supposed to only have sex for procreation, and Rulon is far too old to sire children. But he has no regard for religious rules or Rebecca’s own wishes. Her only reprieve is the notion that with so many wives, he won’t be able to sleep with her often – but then learns that he only sleeps with his youngest wives, ignoring the older ones.

She’s able to go back to teaching, but it’s a difficult life for her. She witnesses the truth of the Jeffs men: they’re not exalted beings, but selfish, grasping men who love to degrade women. When Rulon has a stroke, she watches his son Warren step in and lie to the people. She looks on in horror as he begins to marry off younger and younger women. And then her young sister Elissa is forced into marriage at 14. We see Rebecca ordered to make Elissa happy, and watch her doing her best to cheer her while crying inside.

By the time Rulon dies, Rebecca is already almost at the end of her tether, having endured too much abuse and been forced to witness too many awful things. When Warren Jeffs starts marrying his father’s widows (an act prohibited by FLDS incest taboos, which he as prophet feels free to ignore), she finds herself questioning her faith. She begins a cautious friendship with Ben Musser, the only man she’s ever felt safe with. But after Ben kisses her, Warren tells her she’s cost Ben his salvation, and she’s going to be married to someone else within a week. She’s allowed to tell him her choice of men, but she’ll be forced to do something she’s adamantly against: enter another marriage.

She breaks. Then she makes a break for it, trusting a few scattered memories of the kindness of strangers on the outside. Ben escapes with her, and they begin a new life among the apostates, helped by her brothers who have already been kicked out of or left the cult. She describes how hard the transition is, how it’s difficult to make her own decisions, and learn how to function outside of the FLDS.

Ben begins a relationship with her, one that comes across as dubiously consensual to me. Soon, she’s pregnant, which causes a whole new set of issues. Ben stays with her, but the FLDS life is all they’ve ever known, and they fall into the old patterns of male dominance, which causes considerable strain.

When Warren Jeffs is arrested and Elissa’s former husband is brought up on charges of child rape, Rebecca becomes a witness against them. The last third of the book is her quest for justice, and freedom for the women still trapped inside the cult. She ends up testifying in many trials, always wearing red – a color Warren Jeffs had for forbidden.

Her work with the prosecution exposes her to the extent of the horrors Jeffs perpetrated. She’s there when his Texas compound is raided, and explains the significance of what they find there. Through her, we see the room in the FLDS temple where plural wives would have to witness their husband having sex with each of them, complete with a clerk to record the act. Girls as young as twelve were recorded being raped there. Rebecca listens to the audio of one child rape, and it is horrific, even though she shields us somewhat.

In the end, Rebecca can’t save all of her sisters from the cult. She can’t save her marriage as the strain of repeated trials and diverging worldviews destroys it. But she is able to get justice for Elissa and many other girls harmed by the FLDS cult. And with her story, she shows the way out for many more.

It’s an infuriating, heart-rending book. But it’s also infused with hope. It’s more than worth your time.

Image is the cover of The Witness Wore Red. On top, there is a picture of Rulon Jeffs with many of his wives, all of whom are wearing white. Rebecca's dress has been photoshopped to be red. Below the title is a picture of Rebecca Musser dressed in red and flanked by Texas lawmen, ready to enter the courtroom to testify against Warren Jeffs.