Showing posts with label Good News Clubs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Good News Clubs. Show all posts

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.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Barmy Bible Study - A Lesson On Obedience and Respect

God sends two bears to tear apart 42 little children for laughing at Elisha.  That's understandable, right?

































Yesterday, I posted about the creeping danger of extremist religion delivered directly to our schoolchildren in public schools. Today, I'd like to repost a Barmy Bible Study that relates to this issue. Reasonable people ought to challenge the accepted view that religion - and religious indoctrination - is benign or even "good" for children. Instead of simply skimming over the stories and "lessons" in the Bible and ignoring the very real horrors contained within the Good Book™, I'd like to challenge NiftyReaders to read - really read - what the lessons actually mean.

This week's Barmy Bible Study features Elisha and the She-Bears (bit parts played by forty-two little children).  Our text for this evening's study can be found in the book of Kings. I will post three different versions of the passage, since it is brief. It might be interesting to compare them (you go ahead; one version is more than enough for me): 
(Note: Atheists and other haters of GOD'S HOLY WORD, scroll past the blue text)

2 Kings 2:23-24
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

2 Kings 2:23-24
Darby Translation (DARBY)
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel, and as he went up by the way, there came forth little boys out of the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald head; go up, bald head!
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty-two children of them.

(During the renaissance of fundamentalist Christianity in the early 1980's, a newer, more politically-correct and friendly Bible was developed. People needed a Bible they could understand; one that rounded off the rough edges a little, one that suggested that the "little children" might in fact have been the very kind of "youths" that so many modern Christians  fear and despise. A little gentle manipulation of the text here and there and voilà! An Old Testament version massaged just enough to soften the jagged Truth™within):

2 Kings 2:23-24
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!”
24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

Don't worry kids, you will soon believe:
injustice is justice*, viciousness is righteousness
and fear is love.
The Good News™ is not for the meek!
Oh wait...
For some reason, this part of the Elisha story does not make it into the Sunday school curriculum or Sunday readings in church often enough - and, strangely, it is not mentioned at all in the wikipedia entry for Elisha, (although I am pleased to report that this Bible character is presented on wikipedia as an historical figure and the (positive) stories about him are presented as objective historical facts rather than unverifiable Biblical mythology, which is awesome) - but it really ought to feature prominently in children's Bible study. Sure, it might be frightening to a few little children, but who ever said that the Truth™ would be easy to hear? The terrifying and depressing stories in the Bible are inexplicably called the Good News™, after all. All true Bible-Believers know that terror brings comfort just as cruelty means love and death is life in Christian theology. It only takes a little early Biblical training to semi-permanently mold the human mind to this spiritual knowledge.

The story of Elisha and the She-Bears is the perfect introduction to Biblical morality for young Christians. It beautifully illustrates the character of the Biblical god, not to mention the character of Biblical leaders revered by Bible-believers. This story helps settle, once and for all, any confusion about the source from which modern conservatives derive their moral values. Most of all, it underlines in easy-to-understand terms just how important it is to respect the religious and their religious beliefs. The first four Commandments handed down by Moses are not about how human beings ought to treat one another, but about respecting the god of Israel and recognizing that all social and political power belongs in the hands of His followers. Belief is everything; moral behavior toward one's fellow human beings is secondary. Let there be no doubt what the Biblical priorities are: We don't call it Bible-based morality for nothing!

Study Questions for Elisha and the She-Bears:

1. What happened to Elisha as he approached the city of Bethel?

2. How did he react to this?

3. How does the Bible tell us that Jehovah responded to Elisha's reaction and what does his response teach us?

You know the type; always mocking the godly.
Just look at them - the arrogant bullies!
The Bible tells us that Elisha was a prophet and a servant of Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. After Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha was understandably elated because not only would he no longer be playing second fiddle to Elijah, but he had asked for and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit as a deathbed blessing (interestingly, Elisha later punished his own servant without mercy for the sin of greed, but I digress*). He proceeded to travel the Holy Lands letting everyone know that he was the top prophet at last. As he journeyed from town to town, Elisha was occasionally disappointed in the people he found there. When he was disappointed, he wasted no time before calling down the wrath of his god upon them.  As a "Man of God", Elisha was able to flex that power that comes with being a favored son of Jehovah, and like the god himself, Elisha never hesitated to use it mercilessly to crush those who displeased him.

Take the day he traveled to Bethel, for example. Perhaps he was feeling a little testy that day (and, come on, isn't a Man of God entitled to a grumpy day now and then?), so his reaction to the teasing of a group of little children will be entirely understandable. Here is what happened:

Elisha was approaching the gates of the city of Bethel. No doubt he was tired from his journey and feeling irritable. Perhaps his bald head was noticably shining with perspiration due to his exertions. Whatever the case may be, a group of little children from the town ran out to watch his approach and for some unknown reason began to tease and taunt him, using the timeless, sing-songing repetition that has characterized children's games for generations.

"Go on up, you baldhead! Go on up, you baldhead" they called out to him. Twice.

Now, that was clearly disrespectful. These little children, in their arrogance, were obviously mocking the Man of God. They were making fun of Elisha's bald, sweatily glistening head! They may even have been ignorantly parroting things they may have overheard their elders saying about Elisha - perhaps that he was trying too hard to emulate Elijah and might just as well ascend into heaven like his deceased mentor - we cannot know for sure why the children did what they did, and they may not, in fact, have had any motive except silly childish games, but still. Their youthful innocence and ignorance of Elisha's exalted role as God's emissary was no excuse for this rude behaviour. Nothing is ever a valid excuse for mockery of a religious figure or a religion. That is blasphemy! Blasphemers are the worst of the worst. And justice* must be seen to be done.

This will teach those smart-alecs to fear God!
Remember children: fear is love.
And vicious, capricious cruelty is God's love.
Remember that now, little ones...oh wait...too late!
So Elisha did what any Man of God would do: he called on Jehovah to right this appalling injustice - this unforgivable mockery of a godly man - the playful nyah-nyahing of laughing children who must surely have been little minions of Satan! You might think that the all-loving god of the Christian imagination would have gently chastised the little children, understanding that their behaviour was nothing more than a stage in the developmental path that the god himself, after all, had ordained for humanity. You might think that He would have counselled Elisha to smile patiently and go about his business as not only a Man of God, but also as a mature adult. You might think these things, but you would be wrong. Jehovah answered Elisha's call the Biblical wayand how! -->

Jehovah (aka "God") sent two ferocious bears - she-bears, naturally - which then proceeded to rip forty-two of the little children to pieces. The story goes that as the bears tore the limbs off little boys and girls and sank their massive teeth into tiny necks and torsos, Elisha continued on into the city of Bethel to spread the Good News™ of Jehovah's boundless love to the men within. Then, of course, he simply carried on his way to his next stop, Samaria. The Bible never does say how the townspeople of Bethel reacted later when they found the bloody, dismembered bodies of forty-two of their children. It moves smartly on to more important topics, obviously.

It may seem as though Elisha was indifferent to the suffering of little children whom he had condemned to terrible deaths for the "crime" of laughing at him, but we learn from this story that he did it for a good reason: disrespect for a "Man of God" - especially disbelief in the invisible and silent, unknowable and undetectable, yet omniscient and omnipotent creator god - is never to be tolerated. The One True Faith must be respected at all costs - revered by everyone, including the innocent, the ignorant and the unbelievers - and when it is not, the insult is so intolerable that anything is permitted.

Elisha stood strong against 
the little children.
Let Biblical justice be done!
In Bible studies all over Christendom, people nod in agreement and barely flicker an eyelid upon reading about the massacre of little children, because they believe in Biblical values, which are far superior to any mere humanist morality. They know that allowing little children to be torn apart by wild bears is nothing compared to the horror of allowing a Man of God to be ridiculed without dire consequences. Bible-belief lifts true Christians above the filth of mere human emotion and tender feelings for other human beings. These are the values that modern Christians strive to apply to their own lives, for the good of humanity. Those who will not bow down respectfully before the Christian religion clearly choose not to, and therefore they choose whatever they have coming to them. That's not bigotry, that's the Biblical way.

Every right-minded Christian understands that to be laughed at or mocked for one's beliefs, while it is expected, is an intolerable offense that the godly should never have to endure. As followers of the One True Faith™, righteous Christians must never be prevented from defending against insults using every weapon at their disposal.  Throughout history, of course, Christians waged wars, persecuted unbelievers and punished blasphemers mercilessly, just like Elisha and his god. But those were the good old days (whatever happened to just being able to burn heretics at the stake? That's another of our freedoms stolen by those damned liberals!). Today, right-wing Christians in the western world are prevented by secular liberal society from responding to criticism or mockery in the time-honored Biblical way, sadly, but some groups have devised ingenious ways of getting around the protection obstruction of the secular Constitution.

Whether their fellow citizens want it or not, Bible-believing Christians know that it is imperative that the United States be brought to its knees before them the one true god. Great strides have been made since the Reagan era made it clear that there were ways around the First Amendment, and Christian power in government and society has since grown enormous. Every level of government, every profession, every cultural sphere and every educational institution has been infused with the holy spirit in the form of planted emissaries of the favored Christian faith. It is time for the Christian Right to stand up even taller in defense of their faith: the criticism coming from liberals and moderates is intolerable and outrageous. It must be silenced. It is not simply free speech in a free country - it is persecution of Christians!

Turns out God and Guns is a
winning combination, after all!
Might makes right; that's the
Biblical way!
The story of Elisha and the She-Bears teaches us without ambiguity that the Biblical God is a mercilessly punishing god. To disrespect him - even unknowingly - is to bring his wrath down upon even the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Righteous, Bible-believing Christians know this Truth™and they fear it. The anger of the all-loving, all-powerful god is terrifying and there is no room for mutual understanding, acceptance of different beliefs or of ignorance. The Good News™ must be embraced by everyone - force-fed to them, if necessary - for the good of humanity.

Righteous, Bible-believing, born-again Christians will not be fooled by liberals who disguise themselves as Christians, either. So-called moderate Christians - who are too tolerant of others, who accept other people for who they are and who believe there may be many pathways to God - will never be accepted as real Christians by the true Bible-believer. Moderate, liberal Christians are like the little children who mocked the great Man of God, Elisha. They look innocent but they are false Christians, perhaps even the devil's minions and they, likewise, must be shown no mercy. It is hard Truth™, but true Christians know that they must be strong enough to do whatever is necessary to defend their beliefs. In the words of bible.org, "We need more Elishas, those who will stand fast and act in biblical ways leaving the results to the Lord." Wow. Indeed! How awesome is Biblical love!

Here is what every loving Christian parent knows: The lesson about God's righteous justice that they learn from the story of Elisha and the Bears is good for Christian children. Fear is good. We know this is true because the Bible tells us so. The Bible says it. We believe it. That settles it. However, there is always the danger that some Christians may recognise the raw, power-hungry psychological manipulation for what it is fail to accept and understand this wondrous mystery unless their beliefs are seared into their psyches through childhood indoctrination inculcated early and thoroughly. Might as well get them started in pre-school! Below you will find an example of a fun way to introduce the important message of the story of Elisha and the She-Bears to young children - use a colouring page! It's just the thing. Find your copies at any Christian supply store and start training up your children the right way today!

*Justice is injustice. Injustice is justice. The Bible is always right. This is Biblical logic. Get used to it. 'We need more Elishas' and, if the Christian right gets its wish this election, we will have them at long last. We could soon be enjoying a far more Biblically correct America. Praise God!

Class dismissed.

The child who coloured this page added a nice touch when he drew in the spurting blood.
This boy shows righteous promise! A future Elisha, perhaps?


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.



Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Closing Arguments For Election Day - VOTE!

Be strong. Be safe. Be an American.


























Well, Election Day is finally here. The lines may be long. The pressure may be on you to walk away from the polling place. Please do not take the easier road today. Your country needs you. Get out and vote. Tell your family and friends to vote. The country is at a serious crossroads right now - do you want to turn back the clock 50 or more years economically, socially and politically? Or do you want to keep moving forward?

There have been worrying reports for weeks about ramped up efforts to suppress the vote, especially in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin and Nevada.  Please stay strong, people! Do not let voter intimidation rob you of your constitutional rights. Do not let secret, well-funded groups succeed in suppressing the vote to steal this election. The United States is a free Republic and it will stay that way because everyday American heroes will insist upon it.

Know your rights and be prepared. There may be long lines, irritable people, problems with voting machines and "observers" who may challenge your right to be there. Do not accept the word of a stranger on a polling place line; do not let an "observer" convince you that you should not vote today! These operatives have been well-trained to scare voters away from the polls. Do not let them do this to you. Do not let them do this to America.

Resources for voters:

Our Vote:  "Election Protection is working 365 days to advance and defend your right to vote, but you also need to be fully equipped with information and resources to help you cast a ballot on Election Day."

Know your rights!  State-specific voter checklists Use the checklist as a resource for information about your right to vote and what you need to do before heading to the polls on Election Day.

VotoLatino, Get the facts on latino voter suppression, and information about voting.

Student Voting Guide, Brennan Center for Justice: Comprehensive voting guide with interactive map for one-click access to voter information.

Fair Elections Legal Network Guide

SmartVoter; Unbiased Election Information, League of Women Voters.

If you have a few minutes before you go to the polls - or even while waiting in a long line (print to read!), please read the passionate and heartfelt essay linked below. Millions of young people in America have been recruited to serve the interests of a nihilistic and profoundly anti-American ideology through early religious indoctrination and college radicalization . Fighting your way out of that maze of conflicting moral problems is extremely difficult - the strategists behind it deliberately made it that way - but young Americans are stronger and smarter than that.

Read. Think. Remember our history. Vote.

Dear Young Conservative, D C Pierson, November 4, 2012

I am ashamed because I accepted into my heart and head a system of thought I now believe to be, to borrow a term from my old friend Ayn Rand, anti-life: that government should only exist to make it easy for businesses to do business, the idea that it is our civic duty to have no civic duty. I no longer believe that the way to make things better for everyone is to let people with money do whatever they want, whenever they want. I feel I’ve earned the crap out of this belief, given that I used to believe precisely the opposite, and I’ve taken a long journey to the side I stand on now.

And I urge you, before you dismiss me as a long-haired Hollywood goofball liberal, to read on, and to listen to me in every bit the earnest that I am writing to you.  Please don’t pull the dismissive ripcord in your mind, the one labeled “You’re just saying that because you’re biased, etc…” that all of us use every day to reject the idea that someone who disagrees with us may have a point. This ripcord is cynicism, plain and simple, and it mars political discourse and if we continue to pull it every time someone starts to say something that doesn’t jibe with what we already think, life on this planet will soon be quite literally impossible.

I completely understand the appeal of being an intelligent young conservative. When you’ve spent your entire academic career in gifted-and-talented programs, constantly being made an exception of, there’s something really appealing in imagining the grown-up world as a perfect arena of achievement where the talented and strong triumph, because they’re better than everybody else and they work harder, and everybody else watches from the sidelines or works the concessions stand, or worse. 

In Ayn Rand’s books, I found really romantic fables of people persecuted for being smart and capable and hard-working. All government should do, or should be able to do, I believed, is free the smart and capable and hard-working among us to do what we want and need to do, and everything will take care of itself.

And I still don’t believe the smart and capable and hard-working should have a whole lot of roadblocks to doing what they want and need to do, as long as they’re not infringing on the rights and the health of others. 

What I’ve learned in my brief time in the real world is, there aren’t a whole lot of impediments to smart, capable, hard-working people doing what it is they want and need to do. Not governmental ones, anyway. But the threat of Big Government inhibiting these high achievers from raising all our boats with their tide of good ideas and prosperity is often used to make life very, very hard for lots of other people, including, yes, a lot of the smart, the capable, and the hard-working. Harder than it needs to be, given our relative affluence as a society.

Here’s the thing:

The world doesn’t need help being harder... please click to read the whole amazing essay.

Mitt's 10 Most Destructive Policies, Robert Reich, Salon, November 5, 2012.

In Romney's world, money is king.
And he who has the most money,
is entitled to be king.
By now, in these last remaining days before the election of 2012, we have learned enough about the beliefs of the Republican presidential candidate to see them as a worldview all its own – a kind of creed that explains Mitt Romney. Those who say he has no principles are selling him short.

Despite its contradictions and ellipses, Romneyism has an internal coherence. It is different from conservatism, because it does not intend to conserve or protect any particular institutions or values. It is also distinct from  Republicanism, in that it is not rooted in traditional small-town American values, nationalism, or states’ rights.

The ten guiding principles of Romneyism are...click to continue.




Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Barmy Bible Study - Show Them No Mercy

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 last Wednesday, 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.

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 invasions, massacres, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Israelites, and the Old and New Testaments justified the invasions, massacres*, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Christians, so the Koran justifies invasions, massacres, rapes and plundering by God's chosen people - the Muslims and the Book of Mormon justifies violence, massacres, rapes 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.