Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 3. Best Place Ever

Hell doesn’t exist. But before I realized that, I was very much looking forward to going. Why no fear?

Well, for one thing, I was pretty sure that whatever the Divine was, he/she/they/it had absolutely no interest in torturing people forever. I mean, come on. Do we get so mad at ants or amoeba or our dogs, cats, parrots, fish, etc. that we plot to keep them alive forever just so we can punish them horrifically? Do we become outraged when bacteria don’t bow down and proclaim us the ultimate? Do we seek a personal relationship with protozoa, and throw a tantrum when they don’t proclaim their undying love? Would you, given the option, consign any member of the animal kingdom to everlasting torment for daring to go their own way?

Do you lie awake at night feverishly writing up rules on How to Have Acceptable Sex for various species, and become obsessed with them forcing them to follow your rules to the letter? Do you wish to fricassee them endlessly for Doing It wrong?

(I hope you said no to all of the above. If not, please immediately seek help from a licensed secular therapist.)

Whatever this god-thing is, I thought, cannot possibly be more fucked in the head than the worst human ever born. Besides, that punish-you-if-you’re-bad/reward-you-if-you’re-good, all-seeing, all-knowing pervert type of god sounded an awful lot like Santa Claus, and I’d known what he was invented for ever since my friend’s mother and I used the “Santa is watching” myth to make her son behave while we were sewing Barbie clothes. This Vengeful Lord character sounded awfully like the kind of god a dude would make up to keep people under control. Fuck that noise.

But what if God really was such a petty, obsessive, jealous, abusive asshole? What if I really did end up in Hell for not following his rules?

Fantastic! Super-great! Sign me up!

Why? Plenty o’ reasons:

For one, if God was such a raging fuckwad, I wanted to be as far from him as possible, and I’d been told Hell is as distant from God as you can get. Perfect!

Image is Buddy Jesus. Caption says, "You're going to hell. LOL."

Heaven sounded bloody boring. “You’ll be reunited with your family!” they said. I don’t actually like most of my family – you think I’m wanting to spend eternity with them when I can’t take five minutes at Christmas? Oh, and this singing-praises-to-God crap sounded awful. People babbled about pearly gates and streets of gold and I’m all like, “Dude, that stuff’s valuable because it’s rare. Put it on everything and it just gets tacky.” The music? Heard it, hate it. Never feel pain, sorrow, etc.? I’m a writer, you dipshits, I thrive on conflict!

“But you’ll be with Jesus!” the Christians cried.

Awgawd, you mean the egotistical fuck who reminded me of a cross (ha) between every horrible cult leader ever and the worst moments of my unmedicated bipolar relatives? I get to spend the rest of all eternity in the embrace of someone who makes me deeply uncomfortable? Yeah… um, excuse me while I go blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Then I discovered that by the criteria of many branches of Christianity, none of the interesting people were going to make it to heaven. Carl Sagan? Atheist. So were almost all scientists ever. Emily Dickinson was probably there. The greatest writers, poets, philosophers; the endlessly fascinating people of other faiths or no faiths at all; condemned. You know something, if I’ve gotta spend all eternity somewhere, I’d rather spend it with people who are actually interesting, even if the thermostat’s broken.

Besides, I’m not fond of freezing. Being in the warm sounded nice.

Oh, and this Lucifer fellow? Better fashion sense than the head cheese. Got kicked out of heaven for using his own brain rather than mindlessly obeying. Slipped humanity knowledge on the sly. Clever bloke. Great taste in entertainment. Sounds like a better sort than god, actually, and far more likely to be the kind of person you’d want to drink with. And seriously, after what God did to the poor fucker, I seriously doubt he’d be spending his time torturing the souls God doesn’t like. Far more likely he’s trying to win all the best, most clever and talented souls so he can march on heaven and initiate a regime change. Considering the kind of sick, twisted fuck a God is who’s willing to burn you forever for not stroking his ego enough, allow me to just register with the Resistance.

And for all those silly shites babbling to me about God’s love and mercy: do you really think the best father in all of creation would inflict unfathomable agony on his children, without reprieve, just because they struck out on their own? I mean, seriously. What rot.

No, if that was the case, Hell sounded like the place to be, and I was rather looking forward to it. My fear of it vanished once I’d had a chance to calmly think it through. Seemed like the only way to lose Pascal’s Wager was to stake my life on that legalistic shit of a god the fundies were always on about.

That hasn’t changed now I’m an atheist. I’m not fussed about the possibility of being wrong. No matter which way the coin falls, I win.

Besides: there’s a serious contingent of Christians who assure me, with utmost sincerity, that Hell is actually the absence of God.

Hey… I’m an atheist. There’s no god in my life. Total absence. ZOMG. This is Hell!

Moi at Crater Lake.

Moi at Crater Lake.

Nice. So glad I ended up here! Okay, so, yes, I did get burned. But I got better.

And so, my darlings, the next time the deadly-earnest and oh-so-concerned Christian (or other hell-believing religious person) threatens you with Hell if you don’t submit to Jesus (or other deity) right now, just remember: Hell isn’t necessarily the worst place you could end up. Perhaps they should threaten you with Heaven instead….

Happiness is The Happy Atheist: A Review

The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers

 

I should probably begin this review by admitting that PZ Myers was my gateway drug to atheism, and some of the essays in this book helped me become the type of unapologetic atheist that haunts the nightmares of deeply religious people. I stumbled upon Pharyngula during a determined effort to decrease the deficits in my scientific knowledge, specifically biology. I learned there that this squidgy, squishy, ofttimes smelly branch of science was actually quite a lot less boring than I’d believed. I also learned that, contrary to what society had shrilled at me for over 30 years, you didn’t have to be a despairing, suicidal, evil, and unpleasant tool of Satan in order to be an atheist. You could, in fact, be charming, witty, rapier-tongued, wicked-smart, adventurous, full of lust for living, in awe of this grand old world, and… actually happy. Not to mention completely Satan-free.

This book might just be the gateway for a great many other people to become happy heathens as well.

For me, this book was a nice, concentrated dose of Pharyngula, from which many of the essays originated. I could catch up on some bits I’d missed, and enjoy old favorites (“The Courtier’s Reply” will remain an atheist classic for centuries to come, I like to think). The whole book rolls smoothly along, shading from religion and the excoriating thereof into the wonder and beauty, the exquisite truths, of science. All along the way, atheism is unapologetically presented. This isn’t an accommodationist’s book. No forelocks are tugged in due deference to religion; no beliefs quietly tip-toed around; no ugly bits of faith discreetly papered over or studiously ignored while a cringing case is made for atheists to please, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, be allowed a place at the table, maybe at the foot, or perhaps underneath it if actual atheists in actual chairs are offensive to delicate religious sensibilities.

No.

Religion is given no quarter within these pages. The concealer is scrubbed from all its pimples and warts; bandages ripped from its oozing sores; its sheep’s clothing stripped from the mangy, devious wolf* within. Religious people are treated with respect and compassion, as long as they’re not frauds and cons like Ken Ham, but religious beliefs are not spared.

I think you can get a sense of what they’re subjected to by this quote: “Religion is the Mega-Shark of culture.”

But it’s not all bashing Bible bashing beliefs. Myths about atheists are dispatched, and a whole new universe, free from superstition, is opened up. Unfettered by belief’s chains, we can explore, learn, grow, and savor. Science is celebrated. Lives free from faith are shown to be far from meaningless. And every page is suffused with PZ’s quirky, sometimes caustic, sense of humor.

This book made me a happy atheist indeed. Hopefully, it will do the same for you and yours.

The Happy Atheist book cover, which is a blue smiling Darwin fish.

 

*Apologies to wolves for the above analogy – they don’t deserve to be insulted so, but I’m afraid ebola doesn’t have a folk tale about it sneaking round under false pretenses

Adventures in ACE II: In Which We Inherit the Earth

All right, then, my darlings: time to start acing ACE. We’re right at the beginning of our 8th grade-ish* science edimicashun. What has Science PACE 1085 got to teach us?

  • “Earth and Its Neighbors,” in which we learn the earth is our inheritance. Just like the Bible says!
  • “To learn to be willing to work or dwell with others in unity – to be cooperative.” M-kay.
  • “To memorize and say Psalm 133:1.” Oh, yes, very sciencey.

This is a very… interesting… table of contents for a science text.

Image is a white and brown kitty looking upward, caption says, "LOL WUT"

Right, let’s move on. Page (two) 2 has a cartoon wherein creepy-looking boys in identical clothes, Reginald and Pudge, tell us how interesting our current PACE will be. Pudge is skeptical at first, the little devil, but is soon won over by Reginald’s Facts. Many facts. Like the geochemistry terms “sial” and “sima,” which I did not know, because in all my time palling around with geologists, I’ve never seen them use them. Hooray, facts! I’m amazed I’ve learned some actual ones from an ACE PACE.

Let’s see what else we can learn about God’s world.

Our vocabulary words from our Science PACE include: awesome, eraser, handiwork, meek, and pencil. Meek has a particular definition in ACE: “Obeying God in everything without thought for self.” Did I mention this is the science PACE? 8th grade? Jus’ checkin’.

Now we begin our lesson in earnest. It’s in the form of a story about Pudge and other students being instructed by Mr. Friendson. By the end of the third paragraph, you’ll be marveling at the complex storytelling demonstrated in Dick and Jane books, and admire the superior dialogue skills of George Lucas. That’s how terrible it is. But at least we find out why they think “meek” is a science word. It’s because of the “meek shall inherit the earth” stuff. But not if they’re irresponsible meek people who don’t learn the stuff in their Science PACE – which so far hasn’t got much science in it.

But now we learn what earth science is: considering the earth as a unique planet wot was created by God exactly like it says in Genesis 1:1-10. Geologists learn about God’s handiwork, like Job 38:4 says. Job 38:34‘s all about meteorologists, apparently, since God says about clouds. Minerals are “substances obtained by mining,” and a mineralogist specializes in stuff like the precious stones referenced in the first sentence of Revelation 21:19. (The mineralogist is helpfully illustrated by a cowboy-hatted cartoon miner, as no real mineralogists could be found, apparently). And you map-making cartographers got a shout-out from God in Job 38:5. If you’re a geographer, “your specialty would be geography,” just like the stuff in Psalm 65:13. Oceanographers: your specialty is oceanography, studying things in Psalm 93:4. And seismologists (who study seismology, in case you were wondering): your verse is Psalm 60:2. Those are the main fields. I suppose there might be others, but the writers got tired of looking up tangentially-related Bible verses.

All of the scientists pictured, live and cartoon, are white males.

Next we explore all of the ways earth science is important to other branches of science. This is where we learn we’d plump for physical science if we “should want to study the effects of the Flood upon Earth.”

Riiiight.

I do have to admit: there’s a nice moment of secularity where the two characters are marveling at how “earth science is so important to many other sciences.” There’s even a nod to ecology that acknowledges people care about preserving the earth’s biodiversity and people’s impact on the environment. That was quite refreshing, considering many fundies either think Jesus is coming so soon it doesn’t matter if we wreck the planet, or God won’t let us wreck it in the first place because he totes promised he’d never do it again. The authors of ACE apparently realize that a) dude never said when he’d get here and b) only said the whole Earth wouldn’t be destroyed by a global flood again – never said nothing about global warming or nuclear holocaust or any other damn fool thing people can think up.

That was quite refreshing.

The bit on the earth’s motion through space isn’t terrible.There are cringe-worthy moments where the Christian-inanity shines through: God keeping the earth moving; circadian rhythms because God planned for us to rest at night, that wort o’ thing. But it’s a relief to see the sun orbiting the earth in ACE-world. And good news for Pluto-lovers: it’s still a planet in ACE.

They have a nice blurb about Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference of the earth. Same the cartoonist didn’t know the quill pen wasn’t invented until around 700 AD

Eratosthenes beavering away at his nice desk with a quill pen that won't be invented for another thousand years.

Eratosthenes beavering away at his nice desk with a quill pen that won’t be invented for another thousand years.

According to the planetarium dude delivering the lecture that is Section Two, Venus has to do with our Lord’s glory (Revelation 22:16b). In ACE-world, everyone’s a fundamentalist Christian, including the public science-presenter peopleβ.

They’re very behind the times on moons with atmospheres, saying Titan’s probably the only one. There are, in fact, no fewer than (seven) 7 moons with atmospheres. And for some reason, they skim Uranus, not even giving it a photo-op – afraid of “Ur-anus!” jokes, mebbe? Pluto is also not pictured. But we can look forward to it once again being the furthest planet from the sun in 1991! Oh, wait…

And, of course, the tour of the planets must end with our supposed planetarium guy concluding that bit on planets with a little homily on Earth’s uniqueness. No, really super-duper-God-made-it-just-for-us unique! Of course, the others are also unique, but God didn’t make them for life. Oh, and if God “break[s] the hold of solar gravity,” we’ll fly off into space like an untethered tetherball. True fact.

I see they very carefully note that Copernicus, Galileo, and Keplar had ideas that “were not readily received.” We’re not told that good old Nick C. was too shit-scared to publish for years, going to far as to write a cringing apology of a dedication to the Pope, and that Galileo was nearly barbequed by the Church dudes for the terrible crime of accurately describing the natural world. Bruno gets no mention at all. Nope, nothin’ to do with religion at all! Nosir, it’s just that real scientists with real science ideas sometimes aren’t accepted by, like, people, y’know… the ground thus being laid for the implication that the creation scientists are just like these brilliant actual scientist guys wot everybody believes now.

Isaac Newton, of course, is given a loving tongue-bath for being a Christian who believed in God, and knew God created the universe all orderly-like, and did we mention he was a Christian?

But all of that is just appetizers, my darlings. Now comes the real creationist howler:

“The sun is getting smaller for two reasons. First, the sun is consuming its own fuel to give off light and heat energy. Second, the sun is composed largely of hydrogen gas under great pressure due to gravity. Gravity causes the sun to contract at the rate of 5 feet (1.5 m) per hour. Due to the way in which the sun is consuming its own fuel and contracting, many scientists agree that the sun can only be a few thousand years old.”

No. Not even close to reality. The sun’s not shrinking. It’s not a few thousand years old. The only scientists who think so are creationist gits. The authors of ACE are either completely ignorant dupes, or liars for Jesus. Not sure which yet, but I know one thing they’re definitely not: science educators.

After we’ve stopped twitching, we encounter Moar Great Christian Science via the kids at lunch. Ace (isn’t that clever?) delivers his own little sermon: we’ve only got one sun, ergo, one God, and one Jesus, because reasons, and also I Timothy 2:5. “The sun also shows us that God is no respecter of persons,” cuz even the non-Christian nations get sunlight, like it says in Matthew 5:45. Also sez so in Acts 10:34, don’t it? God’s always awake because the sun and Psalm 121:4. He definitely prevails over the powers of darkness cuz the sun’s bright, also I John 1:5.

Then we’re given a little light comic relief with a toaster joke before moving on to things like eclipses. The children (all boys, of course) continue to hurl long chunks of exposition at each other. We even get a treatise on the moon’s phases – including the, um, fact, that they “illustrate Christ’s life and ministry.” See?

Jesus and the Moon's Phases, a totally scientific set of illustrations. There are little cartoons with the phase of the moon and the coresponding phase of Jesus's life: New Moon = Christ in Eternity; Waxing Crescent = Birth of Christ; First Quarter = Early years of Christ; and Waxing Gibbous = Christ's popularity growing.

Jesus and the Moon’s Phases, a totally scientific set of illustrations.

After pages relating the phases of the moon to Jesus, the kiddies wax eloquent on the fact that life is short, as per James 4:14, Job 8:9, and John 9:4. They babble about lunar calendars (props for mentioning Islam without nattering on about false religion, boys!), and then about how the moon reflecting sunlight is Just Like Jesus. And Jesus is just like the moon also because tides. One day y’all are going to recognize this fact. Sez so in Philippians 2:10-11.

Oh, and the planets teach us about unity and obedience, Just to, y’know, achieve that goal about cooperation.

And there we have Science PACE 1085. Of all the Christianist texts I’ve got, this one is easily the worst. (Strangely not as terrifying as Earth Science 4th Edition, though.)

But wait. We’ve not done the activities yet….

Lemme go get drunk first.

 

*ACE is self-paced. If a child wants to escape the torture early and had a titanium stomach, they can work ahead.

Not their word.

No guide to pronunciation of his name, although they’ve told us how to pronounce Arizona, and will later tell us how to say Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

β Okay, technically, there are non-fundies, but they’re bad, bad people. All the good people are Bible-believin’ Christians.

Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 2. Just What the Hell is Hell?

No one can even agree on what Hell is. They’re happy to threaten you with it, but they’re all over the place when it comes to explaining it. You know, a real place usually has a pretty consistent description. Take Chicago. We know where it is. Right there in Illinois, can’t miss it.

(Where is Hell? Can anyone reliably tell you where it’s located? Nope.)

Sure, we may disagree about what Chicago’s like: I think it’s the best damned city in the Midwest, other people think it’s a shithole. But we can all agree it’s got nice areas and run-down ones. It’s got a dazzling downtown. And everybody can agree on what’s there. You don’t have arguments over whether, say, it’s got a library or not. You can verify.

The Chicago Public Library. One of the most awesome buildings I have ever seen - I love it muchly. Image courtesy steveblane via Flickr.

The Chicago Public Library. One of the most awesome buildings I have ever seen – I love it muchly. Image courtesy steveblane via Flickr.

So what is hell?

Hmm. Hot place where fire’s are unquenchable, worm dieth not, wailing and gnashing of teeth, etc. Yuck.

No, it’s got all these levels, and where you end up depends on how bad you were.

Wait, no, those aren’t levels, they’re circles!

Hell is eternal torment! No, wait, you’re just there for a while, then destroyed forever. No, wait, you’re not destroyed, you go to Heaven afterward!

Hell is the presence of God! No, wait, it’s the absence of God!

Hell is a real place! No, wait, it’s just a state of being!

Hell is other people (and Second Empire furniture)! No, wait, Hell is being alone!

Hell is Satan’s domain! No, wait, it belongs to God!

Okay, no, really, this is what Hell is: it’s exactly like Heaven. Everyone’s at this absolutely incredible feast. Only they’ve got forks three feet long strapped to their hands, so they can’t feed themselves (No, wait, it was chopsticks! Or maybe spoons!). In Heaven, the people feed each other. In Hell, everybody starves because they don’t.

No, wait, that’s backwards: the Libertarians know Hell is where people feed each other (which is hideous icky socialism and lets the moochers take advantage of the producers). Heaven is where you feed yourself, because it’s right that everyone should do for themselves.

Who goes there?

Everyone who doesn’t worship God the right way!

No, wait, just bad people like homosexuals and liberals.

No, wait, just really horrid people like serial killers and politicians.

No, wait, nobody goes because God’s a big ol’ softie and would never ever create such an awful place.

Etc. etc. Peter Cetera etc. But that’s quite enough of that. No one can agree on where and what Hell is and who made it, who runs it, how long you’re there, what it’s for, and who ends up there, if anyone. All evidence people are making this shit up.

But they believe it.

Yes.

But they say it’s God’s word. They heard, they saw, they got it from the Almighty.

Yes.

They’re so detailed! Convincing.

Yes, indeedy. But you know what? I can do that. Let me consult one of my fictional characters, say, one of the Eternal – having been here since the beginning, they should know Hell, right? People, I can hear their voice! I can see what they saw! I can describe it all down to the last detail, down to the exact temperature of the Lake of Fire (5,869°F or 3243°C), the color of the buttons on Satan’s shirt (a deep reddish-black, nearly the exact color of a large clot of dried blood), and the name and address of his tailor (Guillermo Sarto, Via dei Condotti 61, Rome, Italy. Likes to keep his look updated, our Satan). I can point out the location of the place if you give me a map of the universe. I can tell you who’s going there, and why, and how.

“Hungry Devil.” Image courtesy Martin SoulStealer via Flickr.

But it’s totes not me making things up! I’m getting it from an authority, and if you lie awake tonight and picture that being and beg for an audience, you’ll be able to consult the very same source. Trust but verify, amirite? Fuck, I could pass a polygraph, because I believe.

I’m (sometimes) a fiction writer, folks. I know how to put myself in that headspace. I’ve been convinced I’m not the one creating those details, because it feels so damned much like I’m just taking dictation. And yes, I’m so very good at it that I’ve convinced others my story people are really real, to the point where they can describe them to the cut of their coat without me saying a thing about their appearance. But when all is said and done, I will be placing my novels in the Science Fiction section, because I made this shit up.

That gun that was pointed at your head? The one that was so real you could hear the safety click off and feel the cold circle of steel touch your temple and smell the metal and a trace of oil, that gun never existed. That’s why the people who’ve aimed it at you over the years can’t agree on it’s color and caliber, the make and model, whether the clip is full or not, what kind of bullets are in it, how much damage it can do… it doesn’t exist, but they swear it does, because it feels so very real.

Do you know what Hell really is?

It’s a story. A work of fiction. An empty threat. Myth, legend, fantasy, product of the human imagination. That’s all. That’s all it ever was. A story.

You don’t have to fear it. Not now. Not ever again.

What Do You Think – Did Bill Nye Smoke Some Ham?

I only got to watch bits of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, and caught the gist of it from the Pharyngula live blog and comments there. It was enough to realize that I’m going to be able to debate that little shit just as soon as I finish with these Christianist textbooks, because he’s regurgitating most of the same bullshit I’m finding there. I’ll be watching the debate later and going over the geology bits in some detail. Well, as much as I can stand – I don’t think I’ll be able to take much of that pompous windbag at a time. Which means, actually, I won’t be able to debate him, ever – I’d end up pouncing on him, slapping duct tape over his cake socket whilst screaming “The Bible is not science you dipshit!”

Y’all would pay to see that, and then pay to get me out of jail, right?

Anyway, if you wish to torture yourselves, the debate is supposed to be available here for a short time. Let me know about any bits you want me to pay particular attention to. I want my Ham smoked, cured, and sliced. Heh.

While you wait for me to get crack-a-lackin’, feel free to suggest captions for this excellent image Hemant caught:

Image is Bill giving Ken a profound WTF stare as Ken arranges something on his podium without meeting Bill's eyes.

[Your Caption Here]

Oh, and Bill?

Learn some bloody geology. Sheesh. From what I understand, that’s the topic he flubbed the worst, and it’s ridiculous – doesn’t everyone realize geology is the creationists’ favorite target just after evolution? I know folks kinda disregard the earth sciences whilst lusting after physics and biology, but for fuck’s sake…

FtBCon2’s Religion and Homeschooling Panel Shows Why Secular Folk Need to Pay Attention

We all know neglecting to feed your kids is wrong, right? Neglecting to give them shelter, or medical attention (unless you’re religious in some states – a blind spot in the law we need to fix), or any other basic necessity of life is illegal. You might even get popped for emotional neglect. But in some states, you’re legally allowed to steal a child’s future. Extremist homeschool parents and their allies call it a right. They decide what their children get to learn, or if they get to learn at all. Educational neglect, to them, is their right. A child’s right to the future an education can give them is beneath their consideration.

If you get a chance, and you care about educating children, you should spare an hour for this video. It will horrify you.

Kim Rippere and Elsa Roberts from Secular Woman, Vyckie Garrison from No Longer Quivering, and M.A. (Marian) Melby from Sinmantyx discussed the reality and effects of religious homeschooling. Note that the problem isn’t with homeschooling per se – Marian talks about the fact that most of the homeschool kids she sees in her university classes are well-educated and do well. But she points out that the subset of homeschoolers being discussed are not ones likely to end up at a state university.

Vyckie, having been the homeschool mom at one point, provides insight into homeschooling for fundamentalist religious reasons. She pointed out that the enormous emphasis on gender roles meant that girls often weren’t educated at the same rate or quality as boys. They were being prepared to become homemakers, mothers, helpmeets – why prepare girls for a career? Even if parents are well-intentioned at first, the size of the families in the sects that emphasize a “quiver full” of children means older girls end up becoming stand-in moms to the younger kids. The chores involved with feeding, cleaning, and clothing so many kids means that education is often sacrificed. Elsa experienced this firsthand: raised in a relatively small family of four kids, she was in charge of all the meals by the age of 11. For a while, her family lived in a house with no electricity. The kids had to haul water up from the creek, do laundry by hand – those tasks took a long time, with little left for education. So girls’ educations could slide. They would learn what they needed as they went along; they could learn fractions when they cooked.

Parents rationalize the educational neglect of their children by telling themselves it’s far more important to inculcate character and Biblical/Godly principles than reading, writing and arithmetic.

There’s also the fact that children are being taught by parents who aren’t qualified to teach. Elsa’s parents were creationists who taught her creationism instead of science, and that only for a scattershot few months. Because she loved science, she ended up teaching herself all she could from a thrift store biology textbook and a few popular science magazines. Her father told her she couldn’t become a doctor – it would place her in authority over men, and that wasn’t allowed. By the time she reached college, she had wide gaps in her education. She didn’t know what a beaker was. She couldn’t follow lab procedure. It was hard to overcome the deficiencies in her knowledge, and some gaps she will never be able to fill. You can tell she’s angry about it: it rings out loud and harshly clear in her voice. And she’s not alone in that. Many kids who have suffered educational neglect are angry, and using the activism their parents taught them to press for reform to educational laws and regulations, much to the horror of the parents who thought they were turning them in to soldiers for God.

And the isolation these kids experience leads to abuse. They think what they’re experiencing is normal. Marian, who grew up in a family that was liberal for the area they lived in, and went to a public school that wasn’t shy about blurring the lines between church and state, was so under-exposed to other types of families that she found the idea of atheist families strange. We all have those sorts of blind spots.

Now imagine being raised in a subculture like Elsa’s. She was surrounded by the fundamentalist idea that women must have a submissive spirit, which left them ripe for abuse. You could end up believing abuse was love. When her parents beat her, that was what she thought. She and Vyckie went over the rituals of punishment in those cultures thoroughly. It begins with disrespect – and disrespect can be something like not having a cheerful enough expression. Before disciplining you, your parents would make you pray, asking them and God for forgiveness. You were then spanked (Elsa used the word beaten) until your will was broken, after which you were expected to engage in reconciliation with the people who had just beaten you. If you didn’t reconcile to their satisfaction, you would be beaten again.

And this is considered Godly.

There’s far more. All of it will be familiar to people who follow Love, Joy, Feminism and No Longer Quivering. Most of it is horrifying. You can find plenty of information and links at Secular Woman’s Religion and Homeschooling page. I encourage you to arm yourself with some knowledge, and when bills come up in your state requiring better education standards and regulations, support them. There are kids who are being robbed of a future, because freedom of religion means freedom from education for some parents.

We need to do better for those kids.

Sad child by Axel via Flickr. Image is of a small, dark-haired child sitting on grass with his head in his arms, looking very forlorn.

Sad child by Axel via Flickr.

 

 

 

ACE Revealed by Its Own Cartoons

Jonny sent me this rather eye-popping critique of several ACE cartoons. It’s got a jaunty little title – Life According to the Christian Education Curriculum, in Cartoons! – but don’t be fooled into thinking you can read this if your stomach is in an easily-nauseated condition right now. Fortify yourself before clicking.*

You’ll have to let me know which your favorites are. So far, I can’t decide between ACE’s Evil Atheist With Great Hair vs Lil Godbot, or Who Will Feed Me Now That Mommy’s a Feminist?! I do know the winner in the creep category for me, though:

Cartoon is two panels. The first shows a family in a living room. The dad is reading the Bible, saying, "'Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.' Racer, God is pleased when you obey your parents." The second panel shows Racer sitting on his bed in his PJs and robe, reading his Bible. Thought bubble reads, "I will listen and obey my parents."

Image courtesy Jonny Scaramanga.

To the people who write this stuff, this apparently isn’t horrifically creepy indoctrination – it’s just a good education. Show a kid evidence for evolution, on the other hand…

And to think I’ve signed on to read a whole grade of this shit. Including the tests. And those terrible cartoons. I’d ask you to save spare change for the Replace Dana’s Liver fund, but you’re probably going to need that money for your own transplant. I’m so, so sorry.

 

*If the pics don’t show, just click where they should be – they’ve been temperamental.

Adventures in ACE I: In Which Oddities Are Explored

I recently spent an instructive few months reading Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, where I learned just how screwed up Accelerated Christian Education is. Imagine a room full of young kids stuffed in study carrels (“office,” in ACE parlance), sitting silent on hard plastic chairs while they’re taught truly-true Christian things from thin newsprint booklets. As they grind through their science lessons, they answer review questions such as:

Christ’s shed blood is the _______ of our salvation. (Science PACE 1085)

Welcome to the whacky world of ACE, where until recently kids were taught that the Lock Ness Monster exists (and is a plesiosaur – checkmate, atheists!) Considering this is an “education” produced by (virtually) the same company that supplies the supposedly secular Responsive Ed curriculum, and is taught to far too many kids in Christian private and home schools worldwide, we should pay close attention to their shenanigans.*

Let us investigate the violence done to the earth sciences, shall we?

I had the dubious pleasure of opening a packet of PACEs this evening. Yes, my 8th grade science curriculum makes quite the stack. And I’m going to attempt them stone-sober. We’ll see if my brain makes it past first impressions without crying for the solace of demon rum.

Image shows a stack of PACES, with 1085 on top.

Mah stack o’ ACE

If you’re looking for slick, glossy Christianist science education, you won’t find it here. Each book is thin, stapled newsprint, much like the instruction booklets mailed out by the IRS, only less useful to civilization. The covers, recycled from previous PACEs, often have little to nothing to do with the content within, and haven’t been updated for decades to boot. The first booklet has got the word “science” all over it, along with photos of people looking at things potentially related to science. The clothes and hairstyles are trés late-70s – early-80s. I feel we’ve reached the cutting edge already.

The next PACE, showing an astronaut and the American flag on the moon, the Earth shining full overhead, has got red crosses all over it.

A quick flip through the pile shows a few booklets aren’t in color. These are the Activity PACs. I think they’re included to ensure a child’s will is thoroughly broken. The Science 1087 PAC, for instance, has us fill in the blanks for questions such as, “God designed the hydrologic ________ to prevent the ________ from overflowing.”

Now, lest you fall prey to the idea that these activity books may, somewhere within, contain any activities that may prove the slightest bit fun, let me just advice there is nothing of that worldly sort. We have science vocabulary words (like “hymn”), fill-in-the-blank exercises, Bible verse memorization…. and that’s it. I know, the excitement could positively overwhelm a kid.

The contents of each PACE include goals we’re to learn about, such as “Purpose of Earth’s Creation.” Then there’s a homily sort of thing, and a little snippet of what appears to be the lyrics of a good Christian song or hymn. Finally, there’s the Bible verse to memorize. As I imagined myself in an “office,” opening to the Table of Contents in my Science PACE 1085, I could feel my will to live drain like a glacial lake that has just floated its ice dam.

At the bottom, we see the copyright date, which informs us that the most recent revision of this PACE was 1998. A quick gallop through the rest show a few were revised in 2002; some haven’t been touched since 1986. I guess there aren’t that many updates needed when the answer to everything is “God did it.”

On the page facing the contents, there is a cartoon. It looks like something created by someone who once had a comic described and that kids love ‘em, so thought this would be a great way to make the PACEs exciting. This person, not knowing how panels in comics work, has drawn helpful arrows for us to follow. Which is good, because otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to blindly follow the right path. Happily, he (and I’m positive it’s a he) dispenses with those in subsequent issues, where he seems to have concluded that left-to-right was the only Godly way to draw comic panels. There’s not a single character of color – we don’t see any people of color until the last booklet, and they’re just random folk in the photographs the cartoon heroes are pasted upon. Women appear occasionally – we see the back of one’s head in the second cartoon, for instance. When they’re not just part of the background, they’re moms who are never seen stepping a single toe over the housewife line, silly little sisters, or crotchety old women arguing about how God reveals the weather. There’s a grand total of 1 (one) professional woman – a stewardess. It just wouldn’t do to give the people with excessive melanin and/or lady parts the idea science is something they can do, too.

Yep.

There’s another oddity in the way the pages are numbered: 1 (one). Every page, they spell it out in parentheses. I have no idea why. Perhaps they don’t trust their own curriculum to have imparted the knowledge of the relationship between the numeral and the word for the number.

Having flipped through most of the books, I think I can manage these as long as I have a hard surface to slam my head in to on occasion.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Photo is of a tortoise-shell cat resting its cheek against a brick wall with its eyes blissfully closed.Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

I also can sum up the curriculum thusly: “Hello, boys! Here’s a stick. You will use it to ram misinformation and strict fundamentalist Christian schlock into your brain. You will then insert the stick elsewhere, to keep you upright and uptight like a good Christian should be. Do not deviate from this course, or we will use the stick to beat your bottom. Don’t even think of having an independent thought. And what are you girl-children and dark people doing here?”

Gah. I might need coma-inducing amounts of booze after all…

 

*Edited to add “virtually” – as Jonny points out, while they may as well be the same company, technically they are not.

Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 1. Hell is an Empty Threat

Hell pisses me off. It took one sick, evil fuck to come up with the concept of believe-or-burn-eternally. Brilliant, though: terrify believers and potential converts with the worst possible fate if they don’t do what you say, then give them relief from that terror by promising heaven if they just follow instructions. And really, it doesn’t take much to convince them, because you catch people while they’re young and/or vulnerable, ensuring those threats of eternal torment grip them and refuse to let go.

Of course, the people making this threat are generally sure they’re saved and have nothing to worry about. Or they’re just parroting what they were taught as children. And they don’t think of the consequences, don’t care, or actually want their listener to cower in mortal terror.

Image is of several people suffering in a pit of lava. Lava pit, Hell, Haw Par Villa, Singapore by Jpatokal / Wikimedia Commons.

Lava pit, Hell, Haw Par Villa, Singapore by Jpatokal / Wikimedia Commons.

Hell is the gun religion holds to your head to ensure you’ll never leave. A thing so awful that you won’t risk questioning, just do your utmost to believe.

People: that gun is empty.

You may be one of those folks whose childhood was tormented by fear. I know people, far too many people, who spent entire nights awake in their beds, frantic, terrified they hadn’t prayed the right way or didn’t believe strongly enough or had made that one fatal mistake that God would never forgive them for. Children who sobbed in the darkness and repeated the Sinner’s Prayer again, again, again, hoping it would save them. Praying again to hedge their bets:

Now I lay me down to sleep… I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I loathe the people who did this to them. Oh, I know many of those folks were convicted Christians, utterly convinced this was the right thing to do for their kids. I know many of them just wanted to make sure their kids were saved. Hey, say these words, and hey Presto! God won’t let Satan burn you forever! Problem solved!

While the children cowered with that gun to their heads, waiting for the trigger to be pulled.

The gun is empty.

And then some of them grew into adults who still lived in fear of hell. Trying to walk the narrow path. Trying not to piss off God. Still lying awake some nights, crying, begging Jesus to save them.

Some of them grew into adults confident in the knowledge they’re saved. And they’re so relieved the gun’s no longer pointed at them that they turn it on others.

The gun is empty.

An unloaded Remington New Army Model 1858. Image and caption courtesy DarkSaturos90 via Wikimedia Commons.

An unloaded Remington New Army Model 1858. Image and caption courtesy DarkSaturos90 via Wikimedia Commons.

Some of those kids grew into adults who gradually, after a long and terrible struggle, had the courage to look for bullets, and discovered that the gun wasn’t loaded. Either they came to believe God was too loving to condemn his children to suffer forever, or they realized there almost certainly is no God who gives a shit what humans do, or they found the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to no gods at all. No gods, no Satan, no hell. All made up. They were lied to.

But that lie is so horrific, the idea of hell so vivid, that some never can stop wondering if there might be a bullet in the gun after all.

People, the gun is empty.

In fact, that gun never even existed. Just a finger pointing from a pocket, an illusion created by a human hand.

Purple ink on notepaper drawing of a hand with two fingers and a thumb making a gun.

“Gun Fingers” by nickoswar / deviantART. Some rights reserved.

Don’t let it threaten you any more.

Wot Your Filthy Atheist Lucre Hath Bought

Oh, my darlings, you have filled my coffers with coinage with which to purchase freaky fundie stuff, and I have filled my shelf.

Creationist crap, plus some books debunking same.

Creationist crap, plus some books debunking same.

Mind you, this is only the beginning, and doesn’t show the books I’ve got on the Kindle. We’ll be busy for quite some time, and by the end of our journey, we will be able to wipe the floor with the Flood Geologist / Christian school graduate / Intelligent Design spewer of our choice.

Should you run across any titles you wish me to add, shoot me the info. We’re gonna have such fun…