Showing posts with label Christian Dominionism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian Dominionism. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jeffress Inspires Revival of Barmy Bible Study!

Crusader doing God's Holy Work





























It's that time of the week again - the night we all look forward to: Wednesday Night Barmy Bible Study!

Yes, I know we missed our bi-monthly Bible Study for awhile, but sometimes it takes a little time to recover from the horror  properly appreciate the goodness in holy scripture. Let's just get down to the business of wondering at the awesomeness of the Lord, shall we?

In honor of this week's Good News, we will depart a little from the usual Bible class structure of choosing a specific story and discussing it. Let's study a small sampling of the dozens of passages in the Bible wherein God/Yahweh/Jehovah promises his worshippers land, riches and all sort of success, and orders them to utterly destroy anyone and anything which gets in their way.

Deuteronomy 7: 1-6  Driving Out the Nations
1When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— 2and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you. 5This is what you are to do to them: Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones, cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols in the fire. 6For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
Joshua - "saintly man and great leader"
doing God's holy work.

Deuteronomy 20: 10-18
10When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
16However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. 

1 Samuel 15: 3
Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" 

Joshua 10: 40-41
40So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

And of course, the verses which lay the foundation for absolute confidence that one is carrying out God's Holy Will, even for New Testament purists:

Romans 13: 1-5
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.


Joshua fought the battle of Jericho,
And the walls came tumbling down!
God is good!
Study Questions for Show Them No Mercy

1. What did Yahweh/Jehovah/God command the Israelites to do?

2. Why did God order them to do this?

3. How does the Bible teach us that the Israelites reacted to these commands and what does their reaction teach us?

Something that believers all know - but which those who do not believe that the Bible is the inerrant, literal word of God fail to understand - is that God chose one small group of people, out of all His creation, to be his especially chosen favorite people.  Just as the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh out of all the gods in the ancient pantheon of the desert region to be their one special God, the Bible says that Yahweh returned the favor. The Bible doesn't say that the other peoples in the region were privy to this unilateral decision by the Hebrews until the Hebrews descended upon them en masse expecting to take over their lands, their possessions and their women, as they believed their god had promised they could do. When the Amalekites, Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, et al continued to faithfully worship the gods of their ancestors equally to Yahweh - and in some case, with even greater fervor than they had worshipped Yahweh who was to them, after all, only a minor war god in the ancient pantheon - the newly promoted Lord, God of Israel was angered.

So, scripture says that the God of Israel commanded the Israelites to invade these lands, kill all the people and livestock, destroy everything that is sacred to these ill-favored wretches and then claim the lands for themselves. One might think that an all-loving, all-powerful god could be expected to love all of the people He created equally - or at least would be able to hand over the Promised Lands to his Chosen people without harming the other people who did not make the "favored people" cut (rapture them? uncreate them? surely nothing would be impossible for the omnipotent One?) - but one would be wrong.
Nobody can see, hear, touch or feel God
but we know in our hearts that 

He wants exactly what we want!
The _?_ god is an awesome god!

The Lord, God of Israel was a jealous god. Just because those other people had not received the memo that the Hebrews had chosen Yahweh for special One True God™ status, they unwittingly had signed their own death warrants. It was their own fault! Nothing would do but that they be wiped from the face of the earth and the Hebrews were just the people to do it! Amazingly, not only did the Hebrews know in their hearts what God wanted them to do, but they also managed to do every bit of the invading, killing, raping and plundering by themselves, too!  Of course, they knew in their hearts that they had the Lord, God of Israel rooting for them, but they did it all themselves - with His silent, invisible blessing. Praise God!

This is one of the great things about the Bible to which non-believers should really pay more attention. Of all the peoples on the planet, God decided to elevate one group over all the others for no particular reason. That happily blessed group just happens to be Christians!  Well, at first it was the Jews, but now Christians have their own Testament which clearly teaches that there is a New Covenant and in this new deal, Christians are the ones! Well, God is the One and Only, of course (and He is very, very powerful, so don't cross Christians Him if you know what is good for you!), but since He cannot be seen nor heard nor felt nor...well, Christians are His ambassadors on earth and speak for Him - they know in their hearts what God wants, so whatever Christians say, goes. Capice?

Christians doing God's holy work.
(Sabra-Shatila Massacre)
Of course, since Christians co-opted the Jewish Bible Old Testament, too, they still politely refer to the Jews as the "chosen people"... for now. Besides, Christians need the cooperation of the Jews in order to take over the Promised Land in time for the second coming of Christ!  Shhh, no, that is not shamelessly using the Jewish people for Christian ends.  God has clearly given the OK to any means necessary to bring about the glorious destiny of His Chosen People - lying, stealing, cheating, murdering - everything is permitted, even ordered, by God within the sacred pages of the Good Book™. When Christians have total dominion over the earth - as they believe that God has promised - then the Jews will have the same chance as everyone else to fall on their knees and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Then, they will truly be the chosen people...because they will be Christians!  You see? The Christian god is an awesome god!  Of course, if they refuse to bow down to the true Chosen people (Christians), well then one only has to read Deuteronomy 20 to know what God commands Christians to do with people who refuse to accept their His holy word, submit humbly to forced labor and hand over everything they love and value.

Jews doing God's holy work.
(Gaza Massacre, December 2008)
Some people may argue that just as the Christians cobbled together a New Testament to justify their claim to the status of the newly chosen people of God through the blood of Jesus Christ, so did other religious groups. Mohammed dictated the sacred Koran which clearly shows that Islam is the one true faith and Muslims are the chosen people of God. Likewise, the Mormons produced a sacred Testament - the Book of Mormon - which establishes that they are the chosen people of God.  Indeed, just as the Jewish Bible justified the ancient invasionsmassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Israelites,
and the Old and New Testaments justified the invasionsmassacres*, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Christians,
so the Koran justifies invasionsmassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Muslims
and the Book of Mormon justifies violencemassacresrapes and plundering by God's chosen people: the Mormons.

Muslims doing God's holy work
(Nigeria, Christmas Day Massacre)
Except that all of those other religions and all their made-up "sacred scriptures" are simply dead wrong. Christians believe they are commanded by God to take righteous dominion over the world. They believe they are commanded by God to utterly destroy any and all who stand in the way of them in fulfilling this Great Commission. Non-believers will get one chance to accept the Christian dogma and submit to life under Christian rule, but if they refuse to submit, Bible-believing Christians will have no choice but to annihilate them all. Christians always want others to choose life, but if non-believers refuse to bow down to Christian supremacy, then unfortunately yet inescapably the non-believers will have chosen death.


How do we know this?  The Bible tells us so.

Class dismissed.

       ----------------------------------------------

* Bonus points for the use of "I came like a thief!" a favorite self-referential passage of dominionist Christians when describing their long-term stealth strategy to infiltrate every avenue of world power.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Good News Clubs Are Bad News For America
























Urgent: If you're short on time, skip my essay and go straight to the excellent video at the bottom of this post. I've written about this before, but this video is well worth watching - in a short, fast-paced documentary, Sophia's investigation makes the case far better than my verbosity ever could.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship is a Christian dominionist group which directly proselytizes to young children in public schools, often in defiance of the wishes of parents (see shocking video below as parent group tries, unsuccessfully, to protest). The vehicle through which the CEF gains access to your children, whether you want them to have access or not, is the Good News Club. You may have heard of them. They are not "good news". The Good News Club is an ideological and psychological attack on our children by the Christian right.

The CEF does not even hide the fact, anymore. Since they were handed an unconstitutional invitation to invade the neighborhood public school and tell your children that they are filthy, dirty sinners who deserve to die and burn in hell forever and ever, the CEF has been crowing about its ability to target your child preferably without your approval and especially if you are trying to raise your child with a different religious worldview. Yes, the CEF prefers - and relishes - the fact that they have been given government power to inflict psychological harm on your children without your consent. They delight in the fact that you are powerless to prevent them from spreading their "gospel" of hate, shame and fear:

“How’s it going at that school you were telling me about? The one where the principal was - you know - uncooperative?” a gray-haired gentleman in a plaid button-down shirt asks a younger friend in a white vest. 

“We slaughtered ’em!” the younger man replies. 

They both nod, satisfied. Throughout the convention, a phrase that I keep hearing is “kicking in the doors” — as in 

“We’re going to kick in the doors of every public school in the country!”  (excerpt from The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children).


Some parents may approve of these messages—but many, like Havener, find them antithetical to the values they want to instill in their own children. Because the club doesn’t reveal its hardline approach at the outset, it can end up converting children away from their parents’ beliefs. In fact, this is one of the Club’s explicit goals. At one CEF conference I attended, CEF leaders strategized about how to convert the children of Hispanic families. 

“Don’t discredit the Catholic church,” a head of CEF’s Spanish ministries named Claudia Calderon warned a room full of Good News Club instructors. “At least, not at the beginning.” Do Evengelical Kids Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools? Katherine Stewart, The Atlantic, March 2012.

One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

The number of Good News Clubs and their influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.


Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads: 


"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren,Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for harmless fun and a sense of belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. These parents either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'être of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically dominionist Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted every child.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that or kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not merely coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. The 2001 case heard by the SCOTUS is where the freedom from religion part should have been upheld – but the court has also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority.

Why is Katherine Stewart's nearly the only voice which has been raised publicly about this? Last year and again this year P Z Myers and Ophelia Benson blogged about it, as have I and some other bloggers, but why has this not been discussed in the mainstream media? It is a constitutional issue - a civil rights and religious freedom issue. Yet, the silence of the fourth estate is deafening.

This may be  one of those things where people who care about this country and who care about preserving religious freedom may have to make the effort to stand up for it, or risk losing it. The issue is now urgent. Please take half an hour to watch this thoroughly chilling video.

from ScottBurdick again: Sophia Investigates The Good News Club.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Homeschooling Revisited


Why are there so many infants in this homeschooling logo?  Curious!


























(Updated with reader Elise's comment and my response below)

I have been curious about homeschooling lately. I have always been pretty certain that I do not have the temperament for it, because even though I always loved spending time exploring with my kids when they were younger - not to mention reading with them and amassing a book collection worthy of small library status - I knew that I lacked the organizational skills and the stick-to-it-iveness necessary for success. I have to admit, though, that some days the idea of sailing around the world with my partner and our kids - providing them with the best darn home-schooled education imaginable -  is very tempting indeed!

Actors portraying the Nifty family:
citizens of the world!
Anyway, this week I have had more than the usual number of those days and thoughts about sailing away have been drifting pleasantly across my mind, so this morning - just for fun - I decided to look into what kind of resources are out there to help people like me. You know: people who like to daydream about how cool it would be to sail the world with teenaged offspring, living off the grid- independently and self-sufficiently! - learning new skills (maybe the kids could learn a few things, too) and generally becoming quite literally the coolest family on the planet!  The same people who fail to consider the challenges and frustrations of trying to help said offspring finish their high school education while gallivanting around the globe (killjoy!).

Everyone knows that the homeschooling movement in the USA is dominated by religious fundamentalists - the movement was actually inspired by Rousas John Rushdoony, the Calvinist father of American Christian Reconstructionism - but I happen to know at least one secular homeschooler (Hi Jenn!)  so it has to be at least hypothetically possible that not everything connected to homeschooling would have to be drenched in the blood of Jesus.

Yikes! Website banner for Homeschooling Books.com
Education in the shadow of the cross? That is just creepy.
This morning, I decided to idly surf the web to see what resources would be out there for a parent seeking curricula, textbooks and supporting materials in order to provide a good, non-religious homeschooling experience for her children.  I found a secular homeschooling website!  The Secular Homeschool Community homepage lists forums, blogs, groups and resources tabs for homeschooling parents who wish to provide their children with an excellent, broad-ranging, thorough education that is not based upon religious dogma.  Excellent!

Perusing the google search page again, I typed in homeschool textbooks to see how easy it might be to find books and materials to support a homeschooling curriculum as suggested on the website.  At the top of the search results was Homeschooling Books. I clicked on it only to discover that it was obviously geared toward the Christian homeschooling community in spite of its deceptively bland website name and description.

The next site I opened, sporting an equally bland name (Homeschool Supercenter!) looked much more promising.  Their textbook menu included specifically Christian resources and texts, of course, since the majority of homeschooling families are homeschooling for explicitly religious reasons. But at the top of the menu - even before the undoubtedly more popular Christian resources - were several categories of secular textbooks!

Feeling delighted that the second most referred site on the google search for homeschool textbooks offered resources for secular homeschooling, I clicked on the secular science tab and voilà!  A little intermediary page of full curricula packages popped up. On it, not one real science package was featured, but prominently displayed on the top line was "Apologia", a creationist vomitus of Biblical mythology and anti-education, wrapped up in a fancy package with a SCIENCE label slapped on it.

I have news for the Homeschool Supercenter:  creationism is not science. Calling it science does not make it science. Slapping on a SCIENCE label not only will not make that creationist dreck science, but it is false advertising as well.

8th edition of a creationist textbook
Further perusal of that site unearthed what looked to be some actual science resources, but after the bait and switch in the first layers of link clicking before finding the real science buried under the stealth religion, I am not sure it would be wise to purchase them.  I think a secular homeschooler would need to research every text she is considering for her children.

It must be interesting - not to mention a constant training ground for investigative skills - for secular homeschoolers to avoid the traps that appear to have been laid for them by the Christian homeschool movement. Presenting religious mythology in sciency-looking packages and hiding religious dogma in sciency-sounding language in textbooks and materials is the sneaky tactic used by the religious right to trick people into buying that garbage. If they are really lucky, they hope that people will buy into the nonsense, too, thus fulfilling the greater goal of the religious education strategy, which is to deny children a full education - especially denying them an understanding of the scientific method, free thought and skeptical critical thinking skills - thus keeping them ignorant, fearful followers of the teachings of their church.

Parents are free, of course, to deny their children a full education. In fact, it appears that millions have decided to do just that. Encouraged by anecdotal data which point to superior performance of homeschoolers compared to public school educated children, many homeschool parents are rightly proud of what their children  - and they - are able to achieve. But those "statistics"* hide the complete story. Standardized tests can only test what children can regurgitate under less than ideal conditions, not how well-devloped their critical thinking skills have become. There is no way to know whether they have been taught to simply memorize actual scientific theories (which they are told are lies) for testing purposes, while being taught that religious mythology is the actual truth which they must believe or face eternal damnation.

Christian homeschooling websites often post
 optimistic - and totally fabricated - charts like this.
Homeschooling parents who use religious texts for science and history education deny their children access to reality. Worse, like the sciency-sounding but educationally bankrupt creationist textbooks and materials with which homeschoolers dazzle each other and obfuscate reality, the Christian home-schooled child evinces an educated-sounding pseudo-intellectualism which masks a chasm of ignorance so deep the child may literally never be able to climb out of it.

The Christian homeschooling movement continues to grow. According to hopeful Christian homeschooling websites (quickly google** "homeschooling statistics" or similar), it will continue to grow a lot.  I wonder if secular homeschooling is likewise growing?  I am going to keep my eye on this topic because it is related to some other things I am working on about education and the power of the religious right.

Meanwhile, however, I will just keep dreaming!


*My own informal search on the internet for a source of this type of "statistic" report outside the homeschool community turned up zilch. All of the charts and diagrams showing homeschooling superiority that filled pages of goggle** search results came from homeschooling websites and blogs.
** I accidentally typed "goggle" instead of "google", but really, I did sort of goggle at it, too.

                                           ********************************

There is a short string of old comments below the original Hmm...Homeschooling post which I won't republish here. If you are interested in reading what a Christian apologist has to say, then you can read it here.

The reason why I am reposting the essay now is to post an unexpected new comment which arrived back in January. It took me several days to notice the new comment on a much older post, but when I did I was pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful effort that the reader had given to it.

I was knee-deep in other projects through most of the winter, so it took me awhile to get back to this topic and to reply to the comment, which I think deserved an equally thoughtful reply. Thank you for your patience, Elise, and thank you again for an excellent contribution!

Here is Elise's comment and my response:


I see I'm a little late here, but I wanted to chime in. There is more than one homeschooler who is doing it for completely secular reasons. I really appreciate your point of view, and thoroughly enjoyed reading your article; particularly, "the Christian home-schooled child evinces an educated-sounding pseudo-intellectualism which masks a chasm of ignorance so deep the child may literally never be able to climb out of it." I might have to use that one some time. I really feel strongly that you are right about that, except that being a Christ-follower does NOT equate to being an empty-skulled, blind tow-er of the line of BS spewed by so much of the Christian Right. I (mostly) identify as a Christian, as do my children (by their choice), but we are solidly liberal in religious matters, and we certainly do teach evolution and the Big Bang. We also boycott Chick-fil-A, and support Starbucks, both of which decisions I have used as mini-lessons about social responsibility and equal rights. I am a strong believer in a well-rounded education, and in teaching the actual truth, rather than some narrow-minded group's stunted view of it.
You are completely right that there does seem to be a hidden agenda in much of the material available to homeschoolers. So much so that I have found it necessary to first skim descriptions of all resources and discard any that mention anything remotely Christian before I waste my time with it. It's so sad!

I am saddened, not merely that you feel the way you clearly (by the comments) do about Christianity, but more so that Christianity has failed so miserably to project anything remotely Christ-like for you or others to find uplifting. I was raised wholly Christian, but have recently come to realize that Christianity, as a religion, is a farce. Your quote of Pascal is dead-on. And I have recently come to realize that Christ himself (even if you only read him as an interesting historical figure) was radically anti-religion! I am starting to see that the Atheists and secularists have more in common with Christ than most Christians! But I maintain that there are more secular-minded homeschoolers than you probably realize. I am part of a secular group in our community that has discussed Pagan spirit days that lead to Halloween, the Yuletide and Hanukkah this past year. You might have to look a little harder for us, but we're there. Don't discount all homeschoolers as Religious nuts!

Well, I have just turned a quick comment into a bit of a rant. I apologize for that. I hope I wasn't too offensive to anyone with enough of a brain to think for themselves. In conclusion, my real points were: 1. You are right about homeschoolers being predominantly "Uber-Christian Right" morons pushing their agendas (and ignorance) on everyone. Like you, I'm saddened when I think of the generation kids being brought up to NOT think for themselves. 2. There are those of us who think homeschooling is the best option for the exact reason of offering our children a fuller, more rounded education. Traditional school is certainly not immune to the Christian Agenda. Finally, I'm trying to spread the word that not everyone who is a "Christ-follower" adheres to the Christian religious model of hate, bigotry, ignorance, and oppression of ideas. I have a suspicion that there are more of us than you'd think, but that we're so much more moderate or liberal that we just don't ever get heard above the spewing of the Right's idiocy. So I'm speaking up. Thanks for listening.
Cheers!

Hi Elise, thank you for your comment. I am glad that you speak up against bigotry when you see it, and that you are trying to teach your children everything that is good and positive about Christianity.
Before I respond to the excellent meat of your comment, I must respectfully object to the way you have characterized my argument as an attack on Christians using words like "morons", "empty-skulled" etc. I have never said anything like that because quite frankly I do not believe that. Christianity - and in particular its fundamentalist flavors - provides ample grounds for criticism and I try to be unstinting in my rebukes of it and all religions, but I reserve my stingers for the faith itself (including its powerful networks of promoters) not its lay adherents. Most people come to religious belief as children when they are defenseless against its effects on their psychological hard-wiring. I recognize that most believers are good people - many are highly intelligent, too - so you could say that I hate the 'sin', but not the 'sinner'.  :-).
I believe that allying oneself with the most powerful majority in this country is a very rational - if unreasonable - decision that millions of Americans make quite consciously. It's the smart, sensible thing to do. Rejecting religion is the irrational - although reasonable - thing to do. Publicly expressing unbelief is neither smart nor sensible because of the personal cost, though obviously for people who have higher moral values, the price for doing the right thing is one they may be willing to pay. For many other people, the social cost of coming out as an atheist is too high - they fear for their families, for example - and they must stay in the closet about their unbelief. In many areas, this is sadly necessary. I have said as much in many of my posts. It is dangerous to identify as a nonbeliever in our gods-soaked culture, and of course it is even more dangerous in some other cultures in the world. People who stay silent about their unbelief are rationally, sensibly choosing to remain within the fold where they and their children will be safest - sleeping with the enemy is safer than being identified AS the enemy by the majority which holds the power to make your life a living hell.
So, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that I do not think people who identify as Christ-followers are "morons" nor have I ever said anything of the sort. You can find examples of my writing about this here and here and here and here.
I thank you for pointing out again that there is a small but growing number of secular home-schoolers. I know several of them myself. The point of my article was that for people like them, the materials available for educating their children are nearly all religiously-based, though often the religious agenda is hidden in order to trick non-religious homeschoolers into buying those materials without realizing it. As you point out, this can easily happen unless a parent is very alert.
I sincerely appreciate your kind thoughts, but you need not feel sad for me or most atheists. Most of us feel we've made a very lucky escape from something immensely damaging and tremendously immoral. I, too, was raised in a Christian home and, contrary to your assumption about me, I grew up very much valuing the positive aspects of religion - so much so that I was well on my way to dedicating my life to a religious order in my late teens. 
I was a practicing Christian for 40 years. Although I am pretty sure that most religionists don't really believe it when they suggest that an atheist must either never have heard about how great religion can be OR was "hurt" by someone somewhere sometime and is just angry at religion, I would still like to point out that I, like most atheists, had a thorough religious upbringing - practiced a religion for years and loved my church - but came to understand that it is a morally bankrupt system of social control which harms people far more than it helps them. It was very difficult to give up the privileges and advantages that identifying as a Christian confers - belonging to a socially-acceptable (and quite powerful) community, fellowship, beloved rituals, music and a sense of cultural roots - but for most atheists the immorality of sincere religious belief left them no other morally defensible choice. 
There is a lot about religion that is good and appealing to all of us - that is why it survives even when people know on some level that it is, as you say, a "farce", that its doctrines are untrue and its claims to the moral high ground are deeply unconvincing. As I matured, I gradually realized that what is good about religion is what is good about humanity. It is human morality that imbues religions with their most beautiful aspects, but in most cases religious dogma provides a workaround for human morality to fulfill a political or social agenda (to concentrate power unto itself) which is chilling. Most good theists are good in spite of their religious beliefs, not thanks to them.
Most atheists are intimately familiar with religion. Many have read more of the Bible than most believers do. They know the theology and the dogma, and they understand where it leads when followed by true believers to its logical conclusion. It isn't lack of exposure to the "good news" that turns people into atheists. They understand what that message really is, and reject it for the opportunistic justification for power-seeking that it is. Whatever is good about religion is derived from human morality not the other way around. We literally are "good without gods". It is religion that seeks to thwart that human inclination toward empathy to fulfill its own ends. It is a lie that we need religion to have good morals; indeed, religious dogma codifies and justifies immorality. Religion's abiding lesson is obedience to authority, even if that authority commands that we persecute, rape, oppress or murder people.
Religious indoctrination begins in childhood for a reason - it is almost impossible for children to resist it when they are immature and dependent on parents for survival. The fear, guilt and anxiety which is inculcated through early religious instruction leaves psychological scars which few human beings can erase even if they grow up to embrace a more reasonable and moral world view. This is the understanding that underpins the religious insistence upon childhood indoctrination. And fear that we might be wrong - that eternal suffering will be inflicted upon unbelievers - is the lingering legacy of that early indoctrination that prods us to indoctrinate our own children, even if we attempt to transmit a kinder, gentler version of it to them. That lingering psychological fear, combined with the very real and rational awareness of the threat that a hostile, powerful majority poses to the actual physical and psychological safety of the unbelieving minority and our children seals the deal. We say to ourselves; "better safe than sorry".
For these reasons, I submit to you that children do not "choose" their religion. 
You sound like a thoughtful and thoroughly decent human being. I am so happy that you are trying to raise your children to be open-minded, well-educated and truly caring about their fellow human beings.
Thank you again for your thoughtful comment. I wish you every success in your homeschooling effort!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teach Your Children Right!


A little girl at "Jesus Camp" expresses her "joy" in the Christian gospel while other children look on uncertainly.






























(Reposting this after reading recently on Butterflies and Wheels that this situation is accelerating. Previously posted in June, 2012):

Two recent FreeThoughtBlogs posts have brought attention to the improper use of public schools by fundamentalist religious groups to indoctrinate children into their terrifying "faiths". One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

Both Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers posted this morning about the Good News Club, an explicitly Christian evangelical initiative of a group which calls itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), whose number and influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads: 

"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for harmless fun and a sense of belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. These parents either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'être of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically dominionist Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted every child.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that or kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not merely coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. The 2001 case heard by the SCOTUS is where the freedom from religion part should have been upheld – but the court has also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority. The issue is now urgent.

PZ's post    Ophelia's post, Kill Them All, Children.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Modern David and Goliath Story - Teenager Zack Kopplin Takes On The Christian Right






























When Zack Kopplin was in his sophomore year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in 2008, he started his fight against a new law called the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which has earned him fame and notoriety for being a notable advocate for science in defiance of this law's disguised attempt at introducing creationism into the classroom in Louisiana.*


For your Saturday Inspiration, may I present a modern day David vs Goliath story:

When Christian fundamentalists in the Louisiana legislature passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, it was a signal that the religious right had finally declared open war against reality-based public education. This law virtually guarantees that growing numbers of children will be deprived of education as the modern knowledge available through comprehensive educational curricula is replaced by medieval constraints on learning where all access to knowledge must be restricted to whatever can be Biblically referenced.   

Alarmed and angered by these developments, LA teenager Zack Kopplin pushed past his shyness and fear of retaliation to protest the law. Zack began by writing a research paper on the subject while still in high school. Since then, he has sought and gained the support of 78 nobel laureates in his effort to persuade the Louisiana legislature that the LSEA was not just a mistake, but potentially disastrous for Louisiana children and the future economic growth of the state. He was disappointed in that effort: the Louisiana legislature refused to repeal the law. To Zack's (and many others') horror, Tennessee soon followed Louisiana's example and passed a similar creationist bill of their own.

Zack's concerns are founded in chilling reality. Not only has the LSEA opened the door for creationism to be taught to unsuspecting children by dishonestly calling it "science", but the Louisiana legislature - with the blessing of Governor Bobby Jindal - has also passed bills for school voucher programs which funnel public tax dollars into religious schools which teach this overtly religious material. This blatant violation of the Constitutional prohibition against government endorsement of religion was made possible through a cleverly packaged bill purporting to support "academic freedom".

While science has been in the crosshairs of religious fundamentalists for decades, it is not the only school subject in danger. History is being rewritten in Texas (the source of the vast majority of textbooks used by all American schoolchildren), while Bible-based Mathematics (yes, Math!), Economics and  Literature, currently being taught inside the Christian homeschooling movement, are poised to be launched into the public school curricula as soon as Christian fundamentalists succeed in getting their agenda passed in state legislatures around the country. Louisiana is far from the only Republican-controlled state to be pushing through these anti-education measures, either. In addition to Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas (unofficially), four more states are considering legislation which will allow religious fundamentalists to do an end run around both the Constitution and reality-based educational standards.

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.
A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.
Four US states considering laws that challenge the teaching of evolution, Paul Harris, The Guardian, January 31, 2013.

Why are religious fundamentalists so determined to inject religion into science curricula (and into public education, generally) anyway? What possible benefit can there be in denying reality and refusing to accept the scientific theories which enabled humankind to develop technologies and medical treatments which these same people presumably do not refuse to use? The answer is sadly banal. Christian fundamentalists are attempting to destroy secular public education for the same reason that religion has always opposed allowing the people access to real education: for the preservation of the religious elite's power and wealth.  

American Christianism - like all religions - is a symbiotic relationship: religious elites derive their power and wealth from legions of followers who look to pastors and preachers for leadership and who believe that the religion they promote is true. Church is big business. From the enormous, multi-million dollar mega-church corporations to the one-man storefront church business, there is a huge incentive for preachers and their organizations to do whatever they need to do to maintain their "moral authority" over their flocks and thus hold on to their power and wealth.

The allure of religion
For their part, Christian believers provide a steady flow of income and huge political power to their church leadership (in the form of the "Christian" vote) in exchange for a sense of order and purpose in life, moral guidance and perhaps most important of all (though seldom acknowledged as a separate reason) the sense that they are valued members of a powerful majority.  For many born-again believers, that sense of belonging to a powerful majority is one of the few comforts they have in an often bewildering, disempowering and depressing life. 

The foundation for this mutually beneficial relationship is the Christian belief system. The moral authority of the religious leadership depends upon general acceptance of - and willingness to profess belief in - the doctrines of the faith. It is this belief system which is the weak link in the power structure of the business of religion. When the supremacy of the belief system is challenged, the power of the leadership is threatened. 

The problem for both the fundamentalist leaders and their willing followers is this: Christian beliefs - like most religious belief systems - are founded in mythology and the supernatural so evidence-based reality is obviously a threat to that foundation. Reality-based education, the goal of good, secular schools, is a direct threat to religion because by teaching children empirically supported facts about the natural world and giving them the critical thinking skills to continue to seek the truth about the world and our place in it, it teaches them the skills they need to understand how religion manipulates and controls the culture and to see how that manipulation is often motivated by very worldly, selfish goals. 
The Christian right has long suspected
that colleges are their enemies.

Well-educated people may not lose their belief in gods, but they often move away from organized religion. As more and more educated people moved away from organized religion during the last century - and gained independence from religiously-mandated tithing, rules for living and political activism - the wealth, power and influence of the church began to decline. The religious elites realized that public education was their mortal enemy. In the 1970's, a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders joined forces and formulated a plan to "take back America" - and a major focus of that plan was to undermine the public education system which they saw as the most dangerously effective dispeller of religious mysticism.

It wasn't only religious leaders who wanted to maintain the illusion of religious Truth™, however. If that were the case, they would have failed miserably since they are a relatively small elite with nowhere near the number of votes they would need to control elections or influence legislatures. They needed an army of loyal followers willing to act against their own material interests to provide the financial backing and votes needed to support the fundamentalist Christian agenda. Incredibly, they were able to marshall just such an army of dedicated, ideologically-driven followers within a couple of decades. Why?

Why would millions of people vote against their own interests and support a leadership which is working to deprive them of rights and their children of education?  On some level they know the Bible-based worldview is flawed and that the anti-science movement is wrong. They know it - even if they refuse to acknowledge it - because they use science-based technology, medicine and reproductive technology every day. Yet they deny the truth and vote to deny the truth to their own children and their neighbors' children, too. 

It is tempting to chalk this up to stupidity or irrationality, but that is a mistake. Christians are no more stupid than any other Americans. They can understand the truth but they choose to ignore it. Religionists see that the power lies in going along with the fiction, and they see what happens to people who refuse to bow to religious power. People gravitate to power and they can see that in a democracy the power is with the majority, so many make a choice to join the majority. That is not stupidity, it is calculation. In a purely objective calculation - looking at the negative social consequences experienced by outspoken non-Christians, for example - it may actually be more stupid not to go along with the Christian majority.  

The charge that Christianists are "irrational" is probably without merit, too. We cannot know what people really believe in the privacy of their own thoughts, only what they profess to believe. We can, however, see that perfectly sensible people say and do objectively irrational things for very rational reasons.  For example, when people endure hazing rituals in order to be accepted into a highly desired group, it is clear that they do not "believe in" the irrational things they must say or do to win a place in the group, but it is equally clear that they are willing to do whatever it takes to be members because they do believe in the value of belonging to the group. Self-professed Bible-believing Christians may or may not believe that the Bible is literally the source of all truth and knowledge, but they definitely believe that belonging to the Christian religion is worth saying that they do. When you consider the harm that they know they would experience in their social, personal and professional lives should they refuse to submit to the pressure to profess the Christian faith, it is undeniable that in a very real sense it is more rational to go along with Christian fundamentalism than it is to fight against it.

So, while it is true that supporting the Christian Right's agenda is harmful to their own material interests, for many Christians the psychological benefits - they might call it their spiritual interests - of belonging to the church are more important. Church followers were, and still are, anxious to preserve the fictional foundation upon which their own position in a powerful majority is built.  They support lies in order to preserve their religious privilege. Feeling safe in a modern world full of cures and conveniences made possible by science, they cannot imagine losing those gains so very few followers of fundamentalist Christianity can see any downside to denying reality in this manner. They don't see that, having grown up with a decent education themselves, their religious "belief" is a choice, but for children who know nothing else but indoctrination (backed up by the fear of hellfire), there may be no psychologically safe "choice" possible. They only see the upside: the consolidation of their group's position of supremacy in American society: the continued normalization and forced public acceptance of false beliefs which supports their own psychological comfort and social position. 

Public apathy about the creep of religious fundamentalism into the public sphere will have a profound impact upon the future of this country. This is not a fringe movement which poses no threat to our reasonable, sensible little corner of the world. This is a powerful, well-organized and - until very recently - stealthy campaign to concentrate power into a few hands, using religion as the weapon to subdue and incapacitate the people. Nearly 50% of the population already professes to believe that the creation myth explains our existence and the Bible is literally the source of all knowledge. That number could jump to an overwhelming majority of future voters if an entire generation of schoolchildren is deprived of the ability to think critically or to understand the basic principles of math and science which underpin nearly all of modern technology and medicine.

A child devastated by the  
"good news" of Christian
indoctrination. (Jesus Camp)
The school voucher concept was the brainchild of religious extremists who were determined to completely dismantle the secular public school system and reduce all education in this country to a training ground of future foot soldiers for the conservative Christian elites. They have been working on this elsewhere in the world (in places where the public education systems are far less robust than in the USA) through their "mission" programs, too.  The United States was a tougher arena for the Christian war for supremacy, but little by little, the religionists have succeeded in chipping away at the Constitutional protections which once guaranteed that American children would have access to an education free of ulterior agendas. Laws like the ones that Zack Kopplin is fighting in Louisiana deprive children of a real education while indoctrinating them mercilessly with the mythology, eschatology and psychological terrorism of fundamentalist Christian theology. The Christian right intends to return Christendom - within a generation or two - to an appalling condition where a majority of the population will not understand the nature of reality and will be too cowed by theological terrorizing to ask any questions about it. 
"Give me a child until he is seven
and I will give you the man."

Coming soon to a school near you: Belief instead of knowledge. Feeling instead of thinking. Obedience instead of understanding. Acceptance instead of justice. Conformity instead of liberty. Fearful self-loathing instead of hopeful confidence. 

Unless America wakes up to put a stop to this madness, the result of these laws will be the perversion of every cherished American ideal. Christian fundamentalists have been working on this particular strategy to control American society for more than 30 years (before that, they tried other strategies which were not as successful). If this sounds alarmist to you, consider that these religious extremists are counting on that. They are counting on the moderate middle of America to dismiss those who are raising the alarm, while they continue their stealth campaign to destroy the foundation of religious liberty and establish a Christian theocracy in the USA. If we continue to ignore this situation and allow religious extremists to write, lobby for and pass laws which enshrine a particular religious ideology as the government-endorsed national ideology, the consequences for religious, political and intellectual freedom - not to mention technological and economic development - in this country will be disastrous.

Please read more on this topic and spread the word.  Below, you'll find some links worth checking out (even if you have no time to read, please take 5 minutes to watch the video linked at the bottom of this post):

*Meet Zack Kopplin: The Millenial Fighting Creationism in Louisiana (Q&A), Dillon Zhou, policymic, January 28, 2013.
How 19-year old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana creationists, George Dvorsky, i09, January 16, 2013. Loch Ness Monster used to debunk evolution in state-funded school, Claudine Zap, June 25, 2012
Christian Fundamentalists teach US Children Loch Ness Monster is Real to Disprove Evolution, Lucy Sherriff, The Huffington Post UK, June 25, 2012.
New Creationist Bill in Colorado, Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, January 27, 2013.
She Brainwashed Me With Science, Ed Brayton, FTB, January 24, 2013.
Another Clueless Legislator on Evolution, Brayton, January 26, 2013.
Texas Public Schools: Still Teaching Creationism, Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, January 28, 2013.
Critics say Montana allows creationism in schools, Associated Press (OregonLive), January 25, 2013.
Loch Ness Monster seen as real dinosaur in biology books taught in Louisiana school, Eric Ortiz, NYDailyNews, June 26, 2012.
14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools, Deanna Pan, Mother Jones, August 7, 2012.




If you doubt that the school voucher idea is for anything other than to undermine secular, public education for American citizens, please take five minutes to view this video excerpt from the documentary, School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry and Bias.