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Cry-babyA couple days ago, the Friendly Atheist blogged about a guy who calls himself “the Radical Reverend” going into a Target store, loudly (and annoyingly) preaching that Target’s bathroom policy had provoked “the vengeance of almighty god.” I posted a comment there, which — at the risk of appearing to brag — got a lot of upvotes, explaining why this sort of thing happens. I thought it would be good content for my own blog, since the theme is one I address so many times here, so without further ado:


Re [a quote from the F.A. post]: “The American Family Association, whose anti-Target petition is at nearly 1.2 million signatures, may not advocate these actions but they’re also not doing anything to prevent their followers from ruining the shopping and working experiences of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s policies.”

Exactly! Why should they do anything about it? This is just the sort of thing they intended to happen when they announced their “boycott.” Like a person who rolls a snowball down a hill, letting it grow as it does and hoping it becomes an avalanche, this is what they wanted to happen.

As for these militant Christianists “ruining the shopping and working experiences of people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the company’s policies,” that means nothing to them. They aren’t capable of thinking rationally enough to realize they’re annoying the crap out of folks who have no power here. It all boils down to just one thing:

They are monumentally angry people. At the same time, they’ve been terminally infantilized by their religionism.

Their sanctimonious outrage, and the anger it’s engendered within them, is something they’re only barely able to control. They’re too juvenile to comprehend that throwing tantrums like this won’t get them anywhere — because, quite honestly, they don’t give a damn. They’re convinced their precious Jesus gave them clear instructions, as well as a mandate to ensure that everyone — not just themselves! — lives by them. They’re enraged that there are people in the world who refuse to abide by those rules and that there are companies like Target that enable them to defy those rules.

So they pitch fits on the sales floor of stores. Because, quite simply, they can’t help it. They’re too immature to understand why it’s wrong. And they can’t be convinced to grow up, because their religion (as they see it) entitles them to remain as infantile as they wish.


Yes, religionism and immaturity are inextricably linked! Whether we’re talking about Muslims rioting over burned Qur’ans, or Religious Rightists in the US saying asinine and/or offensive things, it all boils down to the same core impulse: Childishness which has been reinforced, justified, and perpetuated by religious belief. This is not to say that the way people express this impulse is the same; oh no. It’s not. Barging into a store and screampreaching over bathrooms is not the same as burning and killing over the Qur’an. Those aren’t equivalent behaviors at all! But they do have one thing in common: Sanctimonious immaturity.

As I said in my comment, the only solution is for these people finally to grow up and stop acting like whiney toddlers. But as I also pointed out, so long as they have what they see as a religious entitlement not to have to grow up, they never will. They will, instead, tell themselves, and each other, that they must remain infantilized, because they think their deity has told them they must. Until they do grow up, they’ll remain slaves to their own dour metaphysics.

This is the psycho-social toll religion takes on humanity. The sooner everyone understand this, the sooner we can pry the locks off these fetters and provide people with freedom — real freedom to act like mature adults.

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Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain AvenueStop me if you’ve heard this one before. A former Scientologist, who left that organization after being abused and/or exploited, and who put up with harassment from that Church even after having left, publishes a memoir of that ordeal, revealing Scientology’s depravity and the lengths it will go to in order to silence its critics.

Yeah, what I just described, sadly, isn’t new. Not by a mile. Just in the past week, this very scenario played out once again. This time the “informant” is none other than Ronald Miscavige, father of David Miscavige, who’s headed Scientology since the death of its founder, Lafayette R. Hubbard (better known as “L. Ron”). He was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 in conjunction with the release of his book (WebCite cached article):

Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and his wife Becky moved onto [Scientology’s “Gold Base” compound in California] in 2006, where he said they were forced to live under serious restrictions.

“I’m living on a compound…where your mail going out is read before its seal and sent out, where before you get your mail, it’s opened and read before you get it,” Ron Miscavige told “20/20” in an exclusive interview. “Phone calls, you’re on the phone, somebody else is listening on an extension.”

Gary Morehead, a former Scientologist turned Church critic, says he was once director of security for the Church and would go through people’s belongings at Gold Base to collect information on them.

“I would go through people’s personal belongings out of their berthing, where they slept… obtaining bank records, date of birth, passwords, any personal information, where their family addresses were,” Morehead told “20/20.”

Before he moved to the base, Ron Miscavige had joined the Sea Organization, or “Sea Org,” the clergy of the Church, in 1985 and was working as a musician and composer for the Church’s Golden Era Productions. But Miscavige said by the late 2000s, the crushing workload, rigid lifestyle and lack of sleep on the base became unbearable.…

For months, Ron Miscavige and his wife Becky said they planned what they called their escape from Gold Base by conditioning guards into letting them make regular Sunday trips to the music studio across the street. It all came to a head one day when Ron drove his car up to the security gate and pressed the button. To his relief, the gate opened.

“I drove out slowly so it wouldn’t arouse suspicion,” Miscavige said. “When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard… I knew we were free. I knew they couldn’t catch us.”

“It was an escape,” he continued. “You can’t leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped.”

The Church denies that this was an “escape.” [Scientology attorney Monique] Yingling told “20/20” that Gold Base “is not a prison.”

“People can come and go as they please, and they do,” she said.

When contacted by ABC News, the Church also disparaged Ron Miscavige as a terrible musician and a disgusting pig, and that his exposé was fabricated for money. Which is pro forma for them … they vilify — on a deep and personal level — any and all critics. Their contention that what Ron reports should be dismissed, is belied by the fact that they’d hired private investigators to track him after he left Gold Base and figure out what he was up to (cached).

Here’s Ron Miscavige’s interview on 20/20:

A lot of the allegations made by Ron Miscavige are similar to those made by other ex-Scientologist whistleblowers, so they’re at least credible, and can’t be dismissed as easily as the Church of Scientology would like. It’s a very strange outfit that works in its own way and exploits its followers — beyond the abusive tactics to which Ron Miscavige was subjected. For instance, Scientologists are charged thousands of dollars over a long period to be “audited” using what’s called an E-meter, a simplistic and crude kind of lie-detector, which is — as such — bullshit. It’s probably more fair to refer to Scientology as a scam, or con game, than a religion … especially since, prior to creating it, its founder had quipped that the easiest way to become wealthy was to invent a religion.

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Sad Girl, Depressed, Unhappy, Woman / ferobanjo, via PixabayAs I’ve remarked before, religious folk have a lot of really strange, if not barbaric, notions about mental illness. They consider it a spiritual problem, not a medical one. What’s more, they’ve been known to use it as a tool to hook people and stay in their lives. Slate magazine just published an exposé of a Christian ministry which ostensibly treats troubled girls, but in reality, it does nothing of the sort (WebCite cached article).

The article is a long one, telling a number of troubling stories, and I recommend reading it through. But here’s an important passage:

[Mercy Multiplied, formerly Mercy Ministries] doesn’t require its counselors to be licensed mental health practitioners, which Christy Singleton, Mercy’s executive director, confirmed in an email. Moreover, Mercy’s licensed counselors or those in training are forbidden to practice psychotherapy, alleges one former counselor who worked for the organization between 2011 and 2012. “They say they do clinical interventions, but I wasn’t allowed to use my clinical experience,” she says. (She requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize her current employment as a secular psychologist.) Instead, the counselor said, executives in Nashville instructed her to walk each woman through the same seven-step counseling model and assign a prescribed regimen of readings, response papers, and audio sermons, which residents were meant to complete as homework before their weekly one-on-one counseling sessions.

[Mercy founder Nancy] Alcorn doesn’t describe the doctrinal origins of Mercy’s counseling in her writings, but [Baylor Univ. psychologist Matthew] Stanford says the Mercy model appears to combine two religious philosophies, Theophostic Prayer Ministry and Restoring the Foundations Ministry. (Alcorn’s original counseling model and RTF Ministry share a name and are similar but not identical.) Both are rooted in the Charismatic Christian movement, which believes in spiritual warfare, the gifts and healing powers of the Holy Spirit, prophesy, the laying of hands to anoint or empower an ailing individual, and salvation from demonic forces through deliverance. “We’re talking about demons in the literal sense,” says Stanford. “[Practitioners might say] ‘You have a spirit of depression,’ meaning an actual demon is causing you to be depressed. Or you could be experiencing depression because generations ago in your family, someone gave an opening for the demonic.”

Multiple former Mercy residents told me that staff members shouted at demons to flee their bodies. Bethany M., a 2007 resident of Mercy’s St. Louis home (who asked that Slate withhold her last name due to privacy concerns) says staff threatened to expel her from the program if she didn’t let a visiting evangelist lay hands and prophesy over her during a sermon. When mononucleosis swept through the Lincoln home, Hayley says staff blamed the outbreak on evil spirits and asked the residents to walk through the halls calling for the spirits’ banishment.

Mercy’s public statements on demons are inconsistent. Its website states that the group does “not perform or endorse exorcisms” [cached]. And Singleton says Mercy neither emphasizes Charismatic teachings nor mandates the laying of hands on residents. The enemy, she says, isn’t some evil force “but the lies we tell ourselves.” Yet in a 2008 speech at the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Alcorn said that Mercy “deals with areas of demonic oppression.” Then she laid out her feelings on the matter: “If there’s demonic activity, like if somebody has opened themselves up to the spirit of lust or pornography or lots of promiscuous sexual activity, then we’ve opened the door for demonic powers. And secular psychiatrists want to medicate things like that, but Jesus did not say to medicate a demon. He said to cast them out. And that’s supposed to be a part of normal Christianity.”

As a former fundamentalist Christian, I can confirm that the idea that illnesses — especially of the mental variety — are of demonic, not natural, origin is very common. Obviously this ministry isn’t in the business of treating mental illnesses, they’re just using these troubled girls to extort money from their families, who often — and erroneously — think they’re being “treated.” The Slate article goes on to describe how Mercy’s so-called “treatment” methods also resemble the long-ago-debunked “repressed memory” trope that ruined so many lives just a few decades ago.

You may be asking why this outfit is allowed to operate this way, using unscientific treatment methods as they do. But answering that question leads to the most troubling aspect of all: Mercy’s facilities are unlicensed, because they are, supposedly, religious ministries. They can essentially do whatever they want. There’s no oversight, no regulation, no nothing. Because Jesus:

In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals received a call about Mercy’s home in West Monroe. The caller said the residence was operating without a license from the department, according to a DHH spokeswoman. But when DHH investigated, it determined the home didn’t actually need a license because it wasn’t providing “services for compensation.” Instead, the program was “operating in a way that is similar to a homeless shelter,” where residents receive food and lodging for free, according to the state’s DHH lawyers.

In an email last April, Singleton told me that Mercy’s three adult facilities are licensed by social services agencies in their respective states. But agency representatives at both Louisiana’s and Missouri’s departments of social services, health, and mental health could find no records of Mercy in their systems. When I emailed Singleton in April 2015 to ask for clarification, she stopped responding. When I wrote her again this month, a full year later, she said she had nothing to add.

It’s long past time for religious folk, especially of the fundamentalist Christian variety, to stop exploiting the mentally ill. Religiously-flavored pseudopsychology is not a valid alternative to the real thing. It should be obvious that it’s not ethical to target a vulnerable population and use them to one’s own spiritual — or worse, financial — gain. Yet Alcorn, Singleton and their ilk happily do so, nonetheless. It’s time for state authorities to stop giving phony treatment centers like Mercy’s a “pass” merely because they’re religious in nature. If they claim to treat mental illness, they should be evaluated, licensed, and monitored just like any other such facility — period.

Photo credit: ferobanjo, via Pixabay.

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2nd floor entrance of a Target store, Springfield town centerThe recent Religious Rightist bullshit over transgender access to bathrooms continues. Christianists’ sanctimonious fury has only ramped up in light of the various criticisms that have been leveled at them. They just can’t handle being told they’re out of their fucking minds.

The latest example of their juvenile outrage is over the retail chain Target, which — in light of the laws and other assorted bellyaching the R.R. has thrown at transgenders — declared that they’re free to use any bathroom they want, in their stores (WebCite cached page). As the Christian Post reports, Christofascists have called for a boycott of Target (cached):

More than 392,000 people have signed an online pledge to boycott Target after the retail giant said that transgender employees and customers could use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex.

“This means a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom…even if young girls or women are already in there,” says American Family Association’s online #BoycottTarget pledge, which was launched after Target announced Tuesday, “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” the pledge asks.

“Corporate America must stop bullying people who disagree with the radical left agenda to remake society into their progressive image,” says AFA President Tim Wildmon in a statement.

First, let me get something obvious out of the way: In spite of its name, the “American Family Association” does not represent “American families.” It represents “American Christofascists.” Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them a hate group (cached).

Second, note their laughably reductionist view of transgenderism: To the AFA it amounts to nothing more than “he ‘feels like a woman today’.” Last I knew, there was a lot more to it than just how someone feels on any given day.

I note, too, that after working to disparage transgenders and implying they’re all rapists or something, the AFA backpedaled from that:

“We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public,” Wildmon clarifies.

Gee, thanks for that “clarification,” Timmie. Yeah, that makes it all clear … as clear as mud.

The Christian Post‘s headline for this article reads, “392,000 Signers Pledge to Boycott Retailer Target Over Transgender Bathroom Decision.” The large number of petition signers, presumably, grants this boycott veracity or something. That large a number of people simply must be right … right? Actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. This sort of thinking is known as “the bandwagon fallacy,” “appeal to the masses,” “the democratic fallacy,” or more formally, argumentum ad populum, and it’s fallacious. Lots of people can be, and often are, very wrong about things. So call me unimpressed with this 392,000 number. They could have said 392,000,000 and I still wouldn’t give a flying fuck what any of them think.

The objection that male sexual predators will use the pretense of being transgender in order to get into women’s restrooms so they can expose themselves or attack them, is just ludicrous. There’s no evidence that any of them ever have done so. As Chris Wallace of Fox News said earlier today, “bathroom laws” like the one that passed in North Carolina are “a solution in search of a problem.” What’s more, it would still be illegal for such a person to expose him/herself or attack someone in a restroom, whichever one they go into and regardless of whether or not s/he is transgender.

I also love how these so-called “conservatives,” who ordinarily would love to let American businesses run themselves however they wish without undue “government regulation,” somehow disapprove of what a private company is doing and want to pass legislation preventing them from doing so. What fucking hypocrites.

Look, I understand Christofascists are creeped out by transgenders. Yeah, I get it. Christianists don’t understand them. For that matter, neither do I. Nor do I expect I ever will understand what it means to be transgender. But do you know something? That doesn’t matter! I don’t need to “understand” transgenderism in order to realize that transgenders are people, too! They’re people who deserve to be treated like fellow human beings, and with dignity, not used as pawns in a religio-political game to acquire more power. What these putative “people of God” are doing in the name of their god — i.e. harassing transgenders, gays, and other “undesirables” — is horrific and inexcusable. They’d do well to re-read their own scriptures, particularly this little part:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

With all of this said, I plan to do more of my shopping at Target. Even if something costs a little more there. I encourage everyone to “reverse-boycott” this retail chain.

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Disqus logo - white on blue background 1024x394Good morning, Dear Reader. I’ve made another change to blog comments. Intense Debate worked well enough, but creating and editing comments with HTML markup (especially Web links) was problematic. So I switched to another, better (in my opinion) comment platform, which happens to be very common on the Web (and that means, any given commenter will already be familiar with it): Disqus.

You’ll have to have a Disqus ID in order to comment here, but that’s easy enough to do, so go ahead — comment away!

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facepalm-picardThe Roman Catholic Church is very good at conjuring excuses, especially for things it’s done. I’ve cataloged a large number of its — and its defenders’ — excuses for the worldwide “priestly pedophilia” scandal.

But that’s hardly the limit of the hierarchs’ excuse-making. Case in point: As Spain’s edition of The Local reports, the archbishop of Toledo blamed women for domestic violence (WebCite cached article):

The Archbishop of Toledo, Braulio Rodríguez, has caused controversy with a series of comments on domestic violence he made during a sermon.

The majority of cases of domestic violence happen because the woman’s partner “does not accept them” or “rejects them for not accepting their demands” he told the congregation.

He went on to lay the blame for many cases of domestic violence on the woman in the relationship.

“Often the macho reaction comes about because she asked for a separation,” the archbishop said, according to local newspaper, Periódico CLM.

This is another of those times when a Catholic official has carried on about a topic that he — by definition as a celibate — knows absolutely nothing about. One wonders why they repeatedly do so.

Photo credit: darkuncle, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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My Guitar (lil' Backie)I blogged about the gay oppression “religious freedom” laws recently passed in North Carolina and in Mississippi. Christianists in both states are ecstatic that they now have additional legal weapons to use against a class of person they despise. But there’s been something of a backlash. Businesses, for example, are boycotting both states.

But things ramped up when two famous rockers canceled shows in those states. Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, NC (WebCite cached article), and Bryan Adams canceled another in Biloxi, MS (cached).

As one would expect, the Religious Right is none too pleased about any of this. They view these counter-measures as a vile attack upon their beliefs and, in turn, their persons. They remain steadfast in their refusal to bend, and they continue to press the lie that these laws promote “safety.” For example, as The Hollywood Reporter explains, an NC Congressman went after Springsteen over his Greensboro cancelation (cached):

A U.S. congressman who represents portions of Greensboro, N.C., is accusing Bruce Springsteen of being a “bully,” after the rock star canceled a concert there to protest a new law that’s being described as anti-gay.

“It’s disappointing he’s not following through on his commitments,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican freshman congressman.…

“Bruce is known to be on the radical left,” continued Walker, “and he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”

Walker explains the reasoning behind this law:

“I choose to stand with our sheriffs, who support this bill, which doesn’t target the LGBTQ community; it targets imposters,” said Walker. “It’s a little crazy to think sexual predators wouldn’t be devious enough to pull something off if they were free to go into any bathroom they want.”

There are some problems with this rationalization. First, just because sheriffs support a bill doesn’t automatically make it a good law. Second, there are already laws against “sexual predators” and this one does nothing to stop any of them (since, unless police are posted at restroom doors to prevent entry, it can be enforced only after-the-fact, and by that time a true sexual predator could already have attacked someone). Third, this justification assumes that transgender folks are “sexual predators” in disguise, which isn’t generally true. Yes, I suppose a criminal might pose as transgender, but how often does that really happen? Can Walker or anyone else show it’s common enough to merit such a law? I haven’t seen any statistics along these lines, just a lot of innuendo and slander against gays and transgender folks.

Oh, and it’s nice how Walker dismisses Springsteen as a “radical leftist” and a “bully.” He doesn’t seem to realize his own fellow Religious Rightist movement is, in its own way, also quite “radical” and guilty of a lot of “bullying” of its own. What a fucking hypocrite! I hope he understands his own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.

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